An internship is a great way to break into an industry and start your career. It may be that you already know you want to construct your career in a certain field or you may just be looking to build experience for an as yet unknown career path. Whether it lasts for 2 weeks or 3 months, once you have secured your internship you need to make the most of it. A successful internship can be the launch pad for your entire future.
Make a Good First Impression
Perhaps an obvious one to start with, but first impressions really do count. If you show up on your first day late, in crumpled clothes, looking to do the bare minimum since ‘it’s only an internship’, the chances are the most you will learn in your time there is how everyone takes their coffee.
However, if you turn up ready and willing to get stuck in and work hard, your experience is likely to be far more interesting and beneficial. Make an effort to talk to people on your first day, you’re only there for a short time so it is important to make connections fast; introduce yourself, ask what people are working on or even what their plans are for lunch.
Every company is different, but if yours has a strong social aspect then throw yourself into it. Whether it's a sports club, lunch in the park or after-work drinks, get involved and get to know your teammates, as they are the beginnings of your industry network.
Similarly if there are work-related events happening in the evening be sure to attend. It’s worth being home a few hours later than usual if you show your team early on that you are willing to go above and beyond what is expected of you.
You can learn more in a 6 week internship than in an entire year of college classes - if you’re willing to try. The people you are surrounded by are people who are actually working and building careers in your dream field - so learn from them!
Ask them how they got into this field and what previous experience they had built up. You may be surprised by the time people are willing to spend with you imparting their knowledge if they think that you are genuinely interested in learning from them. If you can’t get one-on-one time with relevant people, ask if you can sit in on meetings and take notes. A lot of valuable knowledge can be soaked up simply by being in the right rooms and observing how day-to-day work is carried out.
If there are things that you don’t understand, don’t be afraid to ask questions. It is much better to ask questions and improve your understanding and quality of work than to spend time on a task that is going to end up being not quite right. As an intern you are not expected to have years of industry experience and to already know all of the terminology and techniques required, so ask for help if you think you have been tasked with something that you do not completely understand or think you could do better with a little extra knowledge.
You may think asking 50 questions a day would be annoying. However, asking relevant questions, not only about your job role but about the wider industry, shows an interest and curiosity that employers will respect.
Measure your Results
If you do a good job on a particular task or objective, measure your success. If you do not have access to the metrics, for example the amount of social shares on your article if you are interning in a publishing company, then ask for them. These metrics can be added to your resume to show the positive impact you had during your short time as an intern.
This can make the internship go from being a nice piece of experience to a strong employment factor on your resume. These individual success metrics can also be added to your LinkedIn profile to show your proficiency to all interested employers and industry experts.
Stay in Touch
An internship should not just be useful while you are there and in the immediate period afterwards when looking for your next job. You may want to contact the people you met there in the future, whether you are looking for another job, you need speakers for an event or you just want some advice. If you use your time wisely to make connections, this network could prove useful again and again throughout your career.