From making connections to learning the day-to-day duties you execute on the job, internships can be rewarding and enlightening.
It’s more than fulfilling credits toward your degree. As the old saying goes: you’ll get out of it what you put into it.
Taking advantage of your internship is key to your studies, as well as your long-term career outlook and how you’ll approach your job search when you graduate. You’ll make connections and potentially secure references.
So, how do you go about making the most of your internship and showing those in the profession you know what you’re doing? Below, we’ve compiled a list of seven tips you can use to be that rockstar intern who makes a mark and leaves a positive impression.
We’ll start with a simple but effective way to stand out during your internship: work hard.
Just because you’re being paid very little (or not at all) doesn’t mean you should approach your time with the company any differently than you would as a regular employee.
A post on SmartRecruiters notes that working hard is about more than a willingness to do what’s asked of you. An intern’s work ethic comes across in everything from their body language to how they interact with others.
You should look for opportunities to challenge yourself, accept responsibilities for projects or assignments, and maintain a willingness to do what’s asked.
Not all internships are created equal. Some will require more of you than others. But by demonstrating a willingness to work hard and stay the course, you’ll be getting more out of your internship than you would otherwise.
Be open to new things
Once you’ve secured your internship, you may find that the tasks assigned to you are different from what you expected.
Don’t sweat it. The same thing might happen when you land your first job after graduating.
Each business has its own quirks and tricks of the trade. View these experiences through the same prism that you would in a classroom: a chance to learn something new. By accepting any and all tasks (and yes, interns sometimes have to get coffee) you’ll position yourself as a go-to member of the team and versatile contributor.
Being an intern gives you an inside look at the industry and how a specific company works. Embrace your role and the duties assigned to you.
You likely won’t step in on the first day of your internship and hit the ground running.
There will be a feeling out period—finding out where you fit in and what the business wants from you. But once you’ve gotten into the workflow, you should try to take the initiative and formulate your own projects and efforts.
Don’t find yourself in a situation where you’re waiting around to be told what to do. Be independent. Take your unique perspective as a student, and new contributor, and apply it to your role with the company.
Your job is to learn about the industry, and you should have a handle on the basics from your schooling. Take chances, look for opportunities to apply your skills, and treat your internship like a real job. (More on that below.)
Do your research
This is really a twofold suggestion: research the company at which you’ll be interning as well as the industry as a whole.
Take a look at the “About Us” page on the business’ website. Get a sense of its history and company culture. Email your supervisor to see if there’s anything you should catch up on.
Having this background information will make you feel more prepared and confident as you approach your work, according to a post on Business Insider.
“Start your first day with a general understanding of the industry, its buzzwords, the company, and your boss,” said Ryan Kahn, a career coach, author and founder of The Hired Group. “This will make you sound more knowledgeable and confident.”
Likewise, you should take some time to investigate the field. Check for trends or new developments or even legislation that could affect the industry.
Being well versed in the nuances of your company, and the business sector in general, can give you the insights to perform better and more efficiently during your internship.
Treat it like a real job
Just because you’re not formally an employee doesn’t mean you shouldn’t act like one.
From how you dress to the way you conduct yourself in the office, being a professional and treating your internship like a real job is a great way to experience what your days will be like after you’ve graduated and found a job.
There are several benefits to approaching your internship in this manner:
- Your supervisors will take you more seriously
- You can have a real impact at the company
- You learn how to manage your time
- You learn what it takes to make it in the industry
These are but a few of the advantages of treating your internship like a real job. It’s part of your schooling, sure, but your internship is also about learning the ins and outs of your future profession.
If your supervisors recognize your approach, you’re more likely to be included in projects, assigned more meaningful tasks, and be given more leeway and responsibility.
Depending on your previous experience, your internship could be your first real taste of a professional work environment.
And it might be the first time you find people telling you what to do and critiquing what you’re doing. The ability to accept feedback is a solid skill for an intern.
Remember that you’re there to learn—no one will expect you to be an expert on your first day. Ask questions about your work and look at feedback as a positive. The SmartRecruiters post says interns who are more willing to accept feedback are more likely to be hired later.
Being coachable means having a positive attitude and learning from mistakes. It’s about moving forward and applying those lessons to your work.
In addition to learning about your industry, you should also view your internship as a chance to make connections and develop relationships.
So it makes sense to brush up on some of the “soft skills” of networking. Bloomberg has list of tips for interns, outlined below.
Memory: Remember names of coworkers, as well as anecdotes and relationships.
Sincerity counts: Don’t just race around the office introducing yourself. Try to develop real connections.
Face time: Join groups and organizations, go to conferences and engage during meetings.
Participate: If your company has a softball team or does volunteer work, be sure to contribute and get involved.
Go it alone: If other interns aren’t participating in company gatherings or events, don’t be afraid to show up alone and meet others who you might not normally work with.
Personal touch: Go beyond email. Say hello. Make a phone call. Pop into your supervisor’s office. It’s much easier to skip over an email than a human face.
Work your way up: Don’t start with the CEO. Chat with those who are close to what you’re doing with the company and can better identify with your role.
Networking can be just as important to your internship as the skills you’re building. Make it part of your routine. It’s a big factor in your ultimate success as an intern.
It takes a lot to be a rockstar intern. You’ve got to be a go-getter, a team player, good listener, a smart and willing worker.
Each internships is unique. You’ll have to wade through your responsibilities, company culture and parameters of your work to determine how best to take advantage of the opportunity.
Ultimately, your internship is about preparing for your future career. Apply these tips and suggestions with that goal in mind.