Whether you are interning 40 hours a week or 10, the time spent at an internship can be extremely invaluable upon graduating college. Networking opportunities, professional development, and even the independence of working are not experiences to be taken for granted. Hoping to be seen as a valuable asset to the team instead of simply holding a chair down in your cube? Take a look at these tips on how to get the most out of these experiences in the real world.
1. Get there early. When an intern is early and ready to start work on time, instead of strolling in the door late (with a full coffee in hand, most likely), it shows that you are taking your role seriously. You’ve done the work to get this position, so why squander it by showing up late? Tip: If you’re someone who likes to snooze the alarm a few times before getting up (guilty), set the first alarm for 10 minutes earlier than you need. This will help you get moving!
2. Dress the part. Remember all of those people telling you to dress for the position you want to have, not the one you are in? This is actually true and very important. If you look professional, you will be regarded in much higher esteem than if you dress in what you wear to class. Not sure on the dress code? It never hurts to ask before your first day or dress up instead of down. Once you figure out how people in the office dress, you can gauge your attire more appropriately.
3. Pay attention to office culture. Not only just for your wardrobe selections but for your own professional development. The office culture you thrive in may not be found at your current internship, and that’s OK! If it is, even better. Knowing the differences between offices can help you find your path after graduation, or choose a different type of internship the next time around.
4. Find a mentor. Having a mentor who exists on the other side of dreaded college graduation can be an extremely useful tool. These mentors can guide you through the process of entering the workforce, and are great networking opportunities as well. Knowing that you have someone to help your career path, besides mom and dad checking Indeed.com every day for entry-level positions, can help long after your fall internship has ended.
5. Informational meetings. Similar to finding a mentor, interview the people that you work with and for. These people have all made it to the job they currently hold in very different ways, and could share a wealth of knowledge with you about opportunities you may not have thought of before.
6. Share your story. As much as you are there to learn from coworkers and supervisors, they are to learn from you! No company would have interns if they did not want to hear at least something about their experiences so far. You offer a fresh perspective as a young professional and the stories you have to share are more valuable than you may think!
7. Volunteer for jobs. Being excited to help is never a bad thing. Interns that put themselves out there and ask to assist with tasks are much more effective and memorable than those who just occupy the cube down the hall. Throw your name into the ring to help, and it could pay off in huge ways.
8. Do the work you are given well. Internships come in all sorts of experiences and fall anywhere on the scale of extremes. Whatever work you are given, do it well and enthusiastically. Sure, making calls or picking up the mail may not be the most glamorous portion of your day, but if those tasks are completed and another opportunity arises, you'll be happy that you can take that on. That being said, make sure you are getting the kind of experience you want, and if there is something you want to do, take the initiative to ask about it!
9. Work on your weaknesses. Internships are the perfect opportunity to realize the areas you may need improvement. There is always room for improvement, and learning about your areas of weakness before heading out to entry-level position interviews is a great way to get ahead of the pack.
10. Ask for feedback. Constructive criticism is your friend. The information that you learn during these conversations can tell you a lot about the work you're doing. At the same time, it's a great way to gauge how they're feeling about your role in the office, which could potentially foreshadow a full-time position in some companies!
11. Learn more about your strengths. Internships are not just for learning where you can improve. Much of the learning you do about yourself in college happens outside of the classroom, and an internship is no exception. Pay attention to your growth and see how far you’ve come at the end of your experience!
12. Write thank-you notes or cards. Before the internship is over and you head out for winter break, write a nice thank-you note to the people you worked with. Each person has an effect on your development, so be sure to personalize them with how they’ve impacted you. These notes can go such a long way, and will make you memorable for years to come.