A summer internship can really help bolster your resume while you are still in school. Internship’s can help you get exposed to jobs in your field and gain valuable experience. Not all students take full advantage of these opportunities so I wanted to share a few tips to help you get the most out of your internship.
All internships are not created equal. Think about your desired industry, size of company, and the type of supervisor that is a fit for you. What would your daily responsibilities be? How structured is their training and onboarding process? What technology do they use? Will you be exposed to newer, cutting-edge tools? How long has the company had an internship program? Will they have enough work for you?
An internship can help you decide what you are looking for in a future job. It can also help you figure out what you don’t want to do! In graduate school, I had an internship in a market research department. It gave me some solid experience for my resume and I enjoyed the internship, but it also helped me figure out that I didn’t want to pursue a career in market research.
Whether you use a laptop or pen and paper, take notes. It’s a sign of respect to take notes when someone is explaining something to you. It shows you are paying attention and you are actively listening.
When you attend meetings or have one on one conversations, be sure to document the date and name of the attendees in your notes. If you have been given an assignment, figure out your own method and flag the item to take action later. You might “star” the item or write “ACTION” next to it. If you have been given a list of “to do” items, be sure to go back through your notes and cross off the items as you complete each task.
Internships are created to help people learn, so it’s ok to ask questions. You can demonstrate that you’re prepared for a meeting, you’ve researched a project, or that you are thoughtful and engaging in your position. In a collaborative environment, asking authentic questions can help the conversation develop to create ideas.
Similarly, companies hire interns to bring in new ideas and perspectives. If you are invited to a meeting that is designed for discussion or brainstorming, it’s ok to speak up and participate with your ideas. Be clear about the goal of the meeting and be prepared if materials are sent out in advance. Bring your notes and watch the flow of the conversation. Listen to how others join the conversation without interrupting or talking over each other and find your moment to join in.
A good manager will make their best effort to give you a reasonable amount of work to do and not overwhelm you. In response, you should be proactive and communicate when you have finished all of your assigned work and ask for other ways you can help. Stop by their office, send them an email or a note via their chat technology.
If for some reason you reach a point where your supervisor has no new work for you, find a way to keep learning. Learn as much about the company you are working for by scouring the entire website. Are there past metric reports or analysis you can review? Do they have industry magazines you can read? Whatever you do, don’t just sit at your desk and play on your own social media or text your friends about how bored you are!
This goes along with being proactive. Talk to your supervisor to make sure they approve and then reach out to others in your department or related departments. Schedule 30-minute informational meetings. Find out about what they do and how it relates to your role or your department. If it’s appropriate, maybe they will allow you to sit in on meetings on new projects so you can learn more about the company.
Depending on the hours you work each week and the number of months you have in your internship, try to meet at least one new person each week. Take notes during these meetings as well and send a brief thank you email afterwards. Ask everyone if you can send them a LinkedIn request to expand your professional network. And who knows, maybe one of these new connections will help you find a full-time position when you graduate.
Make the Most of Your Internship
Internships can be very rewarding but they are hard work. Be the person who arrives early and stays a little late. Go above and beyond. Don’t waste time scrolling through social media on your phone or texting friends. Be accountable for the work you are given and meet all deadlines. Give it your best effort. Stay in touch with people after you leave. You never know when that full-time position may open up!
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