Internships are important stepping stones in your career path. In this day and age, internships are essential to securing full-time positions. Not only does your time spent interning enable you to personally determine what field you want to pursue a career in, but it also gives you an advantage when you’re going through future recruitment processes.
What you take away from an internship is largely affected by the level to which your supervisors are involved in your internship, and the level to which they involve you in the business. However, there are also many steps you can take to leverage your surroundings and make the most of your learning experience on your own.
1. Utilize LinkedIn
LinkedIn is undoubtedly the most professional platform within the social media space. It’s one of the best online communities for networking and engaging with colleagues, companies, and industry influencers. Just because you’re working as an intern, that doesn’t mean the position shouldn’t have a place on your LinkedIn profile.
Don’t be afraid to add your internship experience to your job history. As with any entry in your least of previous jobs, it should detail all the responsibilities you held throughout your internship and any skills that you learned as a result of your time with the organization. Future employers and recruiters will almost always consult your LinkedIn profile before making a hire, so be sure to keep it up-to-date with your most current roles and qualifications.
It’s also worth noting that networking is going to be an important part your entire professional career. During your internship, try to make connections with as many people as possible. While interning, be sure to socialize with people outside of your immediate team in order to gain a 360-degree view of how your company works. Doing so can help you get a better understanding of your specific role, while making some connections along the way.
2. Inquire About School Credit
Regardless of whether your internship is paid or unpaid, as a college student, you want to found out if there is an opportunity to earn school credit through the internship. Meet with an advisor at your school to see if the experience can count towards your degree. While the skills you’re gaining are hopefully priceless, you can’t deny the benefit of earning college credit at the same time! Your internship will already help your competitive edge in the job market, and the experience is even more valuable if it helps you graduate.
Although a paid internship is certainly preferable, don’t undervalue the potential benefits of taking on an unpaid internship. While the perks of paychecks and school credit are clear, some internships can be rewarding in other ways. If the company seems like something you can’t pass up and you are able to fit it into your schedule, give it a shot!
3. Take It Seriously
Internships are far more complex then fetching coffee and making copies. Every task that you are assigned should be taken seriously — no matter how small. In the beginning of your time as an intern, your supervisors do not know what you are capable of accomplishing. At the very least, you need to show them that you can accept whatever tasks come your way and complete them in a timely and efficient manner.
Be attentive and ask questions. If there is something that you don’t know how to do, find out how to do it! People will notice when you take the initiative to learn about how the company functions, even if it is just figuring out how to work the copy machine! Facing each task with sincerity and enthusiasm will increase your reliability and lead to you being entrusted with more assignments as the internship continues.
Always follow up with your supervisor after any work is completed, and document everything that you learn throughout your time with the company. You may walk away with some acquired skills you never thought you would learn!
4. Connect with Full-Time Employees
Regardless of how many days or hours you’re spending at your internship per week, make an extra effort to connect with the full-time employees. On almost any company website, you’ll find a section that will showcase team photos (here’s a good example from our website). Use this section as a way to learn names and faces, so that you can be fully aware of who your coworkers are.
Casual conversations or just asking for advice can give you some great insight into what working for the company as a full-timer would really be like. It’s important to interact with your coworkers professionally, but getting outside of the office and connecting with them in social settings can be just as important. Grab lunch or coffee to take a break from your desk and learn a little more about the people you are working with.
Connect in person and on LinkedIn, and even follow them on Twitter. Let them know you are an intern, but that you are engaged with the company as a whole. By doing, so you can show that you are open to helping them and learning from them in addition to your immediate supervisor.
5. Find a Mentor
Find someone in the company who you want to be like or better than! Ask them questions and tell them you want to be as successful as they are one day. Look for someone whose work and personality you admire. The way in which they conduct themselves in a professional and social setting is just as important as the work that they produce.
What characteristics would you want an intern to identify in yourself somewhere down the road? Identify a mentor that naturally possesses some of those qualities! Learn as much from them as you can during your time with the company, and be sure to make them aware of how much you appreciate their guidance. Everything you do can be leveraged down the road for networking purposes. You never know when you may need that person’s assistance or reference in the future!
Gaining the Most From Your Internship
By following the above tips and actively making an effort to take away as much as you can from an internship, you’ll be setting yourself up for success. Determine what career path may be right for you or what type of department you definitely want to work in during your learning experience.