Interning is about more than earning money during summer break. It’s a wonderful way to gain work experience and lay the foundation for your future career. But to get the most out of it, you have to do more than just land the job, show up for work and collect your paycheck. Here are some tips that will help you get the full benefits of interning:
1. Pay Attention. This is more than a job, it’s a learning experience. And unlike school, this is the real world — where you’ll be spending the rest of your life after graduation! Your coworkers know you are new to this and will want to help you, but they can’t spend all day explaining things to you. So when they answer your questions or show you how to do something, pay attention. Also pay attention to what’s going on around you. How do your coworkers talk to each other? How do they treat the boss? What are their goals and concerns? Learn the culture and customs of the work world.
2. Find a Mentor. Whether it’s your supervisor or someone else you work with, find a person who is willing to answer your questions and help you learn. Ask about the job, the company, the career field. Find out what they did to advance in their career, and what advice they have for you. Establish a strong relationship. This person may be able to help you with your career long after you leave this intern job. But be fair and make this a two-way partnership that benefits you both. Don’t just take, give. Offer to help your mentor with special projects or other activities that may not be specifically part of your duties. Make yourself as valuable to him/her as your mentor is to you.
3. Accept Reality. You may get stuck with some work that you feel is beneath you, boring, or just plain pointless. You will probably not be included in the important decisions going on around you. But you are, after all, just an intern. The trick is to make the best of it by doing an outstanding job with every task you’re assigned. Then ask for more. Take on anything you can and show that you can be counted upon to get it done quickly and accurately. Even if it’s something dull like filing paperwork, your efforts will be recognized, appreciated and remembered.
4. Be Professional. Remember, you are in a work setting now and need to act professionally. Don’t show up late, chat on your cell phone, take extra-long breaks or bring your personal life to work with you.
5. Evaluate Your Career Goals. One of the best things you can learn from your internship is whether you’re pursuing the career path that’s right for you. Are you enjoying the work? Is it what you expected? Can you picture yourself doing the same kind of work and being happy with it for the rest of your career? If not, you should re-evaluate your career goals. Discuss your options with your career counseler when you return to school.
Bonnie Lowe is author of the popular “Job Interview Success System” and information-packed free newsletter, “Career-Life Times.” Information on both, and tons of tips for job seekers, can be found at her website, www.best-interview-strategies.com.