21 Ways to Make the Most of Your Internship

Too often we hear unsuccessful intern stories, whether it’s because the position wasn’t taken seriously by the intern, or because they weren’t given the opportunity to learn hands on. Instead, they were too busy running around the city blocks looking for this hole-in-the-wall restaurant that their mentor sent them off to to pick up some lunch.
Because internships are supposed to be your stepping stone into a career, don’t let this happen to you. Take full advantage of interning at a reputable company that will appreciate your help as an intern.
Here are 21 ways to make the most of your internship:

1. Address Your Expectations During the Interview

Believe it or not, sometimes landing an internship is just as hard as landing your first job. Okay, maybe not that hard, but it’s no easy feat. Go beyond expressing your interest in the company. Tell the interviewer what you’re expecting to do and learn during the course of this internship.

2. Know the Company’s Profile

This goes without saying: Always, always, always look into each company’s profile before heading in for the interview, but once you’ve landed the gig, it’s just as important to familiarize yourself with all that the company does and offers.

3. Write down Your Goals

Writing down your short-term goals as an intern will help you realize your long-term goals as a professional in your industry. While figuring out what your goals are, revisit them during the internship and jot down any pros and cons you’ve encountered along the way with each goal.

4. Ask for Feedback

You might think you’re the best at what you do, but that doesn’t necessarily mean your co-workers feel the same way. Asking for feedback is a good way to improve on some of your skills. You don’t have to ask after every little task, but just make it known that feedback is appreciated.

5. Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses

Heading into the interview, you might know only of some basic strengths and weaknesses that you have. Keep track of these while on the job. Use your strengths as competencies on your resume, and be conscious of your weaknesses so you can better yourself in those areas.

6. Network

In today’s society, networking is not only vital, but it’s made easy for us, too. However, it’s important to know the difference between meeting people and taking a business card and meeting people, taking their business card and maintaining the connection. Possible ways to network? Start in the office; connect with people on LinkedIn; ask to attend networking events that relate to your position.

7. Stay Positive

Just like everything else, you’re going to have good days and you’re going to have bad days, but through it all, keep an upbeat, ready-to-learn attitude.

8. Take Initiative

Think of it this way: It’s your time to shine, especially if there is room for growth within the company. By taking initiative, you’re giving your co-workers a glimpse at your work ethic, which can lead to future opportunities.

9. Hard Work Will Pay Off

Don’t let an unpaid or minimum wage internship discourage you from giving this gig your all because in the long run, your hard work will pay off.

10. Dress the Part

Don’t automatically assume you know the dress code because you’ve worked in an office environment before. Inquire about what is and is not acceptable in the workplace.

11. Act as If It Was Your Real Job

Because one day, it might be your real job. But not only that, if you do your part and you do it well, you can always ask for recommendation letters.

12. Do More than Is Asked of You, Volunteer

Take this with a grain of salt. You don’t want to go overboard, but you don’t want to do the minimum either. This goes for volunteering as well. Instead of waiting to be told what to do during idle time, ask if you can volunteer your spare time within different departments so you can learn about their roles, too.

13. Ask Questions

If you’ve completed an internship and hadn’t asked a million questions (figuratively speaking of course), then you’ve done it all wrong. This is the time to find out as much as you possibly can before entering the real world.

14. Make Yourself Flexible

Working a 9-5 internship three days a week? Great. Asked to alter your schedule sometimes? No big deal. Accept with a smile on your face.

15. Be Assertive

We get it; no one wants to be the one walking to Starbucks everyday for the CEOs coffee. It’s okay to be assertive when you feel you’re being taken advantage of. After all, you’re there to learn hands on about the career you want to follow.

16. Challenge Yourself

Think you know it all? Reality check: You don’t know the half of it. Learning new industry skills and developing the ones you already have is a good way to challenge yourself and update your professional profile.

17. Accept Guidance

When taking on an internship, you’re not automatically assumed to master the position without any guidance. Accept this guidance, but try to also complete tasks on your own once you’ve been told the first time what to do.

18. Build a Portfolio

Every little task you are assigned, write down. Any project that you’ve been assigned and completed, write that down too. Skills you’ve learned…that matters as well. You want to build yourself a portfolio without cutting yourself short. No resume…no job!

19. Understand the Office Norms

Don’t go into an office thinking you know the environment. Every single office differs from one another.

20. Connect with Upper Management

Depending on where you’re interning, you may or may not be able to get in touch with upper management. By all means, if they’re in the office, make the attempt to introduce yourself. You don’t have to have full-blown conversations with them every time you’re in the office, but it’s a good idea to at least let them know you exist.

21. Follow up with Thank You Letters

The same way you want to thank the interviewer for their time before getting hired is the same way you’ll want to thank them once you’ve completed your internship. Leave it short and simple, but make sure you express your gratitude and include what you’ve learned about interning there in a few, brief sentences.

[Image via Shutter Stock]

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