If you’re a student or recent graduate, an internship can be a powerful launchpad for your future career. The benefits of doing internships are numerous. They can help you develop skills, gain experience, meet industry professionals and can even lead to a job offer.
With the myriad of doors that an internship can open, you’ll want to make sure to get the most out of this experience. This is why we’ve compiled 10 tips that you can use to reap the benefits from your internship.
1. Set goals
One of the best ways to make the most out of your internship is by setting goals. Not only do goals give you focus and direction, but they also make it more likely for you to obtain achievements during your internship.
You can start your goal setting by discussing your objectives with your supervisor and writing down SMART goals that you’d like to achieve over the course of your internship. By having some achievements to work towards during your internship, you’ll not only develop confidence, but also put yourself in a better position to land a job afterwards.
Many professionals believe social capital to be just as important as technical skills when it comes to career success. So, it would be remiss to not use an internship as an opportunity to develop your professional network.
Reaching out to others, having conversations and making an effort to develop relationships during your internship will help you make the most out of the experience. Even if you’re introverted, connecting with others can be an effective way to start building your network as you take your first career steps.
3. Take initiative
Being an intern doesn’t mean sitting back and waiting to be told exactly what to do. In fact, a good internship program will encourage you to take initiative, too. By taking initiative, you are demonstrating your self-confidence, motivation, determination and work ethic.
However, taking initiative doesn’t mean going rogue and working however you choose. It does mean that you should ask questions, address issues, seek help when needed, and initiate solutions to problems. Being proactive and developing trust in your own judgment will help you become a star intern and get the most out of the experience.
4. Keep busy
Some internships may have very clear responsibilities to ensure that interns are always busy; others may come up with tasks for interns as they go. However, in either case, it’s important to always keep yourself busy during your internship.
Staying occupied enables you to get as much experience and learning as possible out of your time. So, if your internship does include substantial down time, initiating tasks or projects won’t only add value to the business, but will also enrich your experience.
5. Seek a mentor
Having the guidance of a mentor when you’re just starting out can be extremely beneficial for your career. A good mentor can help you work through tough decisions, make introductions, navigate your career but also empower you. So, it’s a good idea to try to find a mentor during your internship.
Instead of directly asking a person if they will mentor you, try to develop a mentoring relationship with someone organically. For example, inviting a prospective mentor for a coffee could be a good way to initiate a mentorship. You could also check with the HR department to see if there is a mentoring program in place for interns, as some companies do offer this.
6. Practice self-reflection
If you’re doing an internship as part of your university credit, you may have to submit an internship reflection paper. However, even if you aren’t required to do this, there are still benefits of reflecting on the internship for yourself. As internships are learning experiences, practicing self-reflection will help you solidify your experience and make it more meaningful.
One way to practice self-reflection during your internship is to keep a journal in which you jot down everything you learn on a day-to-day basis. Journaling can not only help reveal insights about your internship experience but can also help you learn more about yourself.
7. Ask for feedback
Internships usually include regular meetings in which the intern is given feedback from their supervisor. However, you don’t always have to wait for feedback to be given to you. Instead, you could be more proactive by asking for it throughout your internship. This is a great way to speed up the learning process and make the most out of your internship.
Supervisors sometimes don’t want to discourage fledging interns by offering them excessive feedback. But asking them to demonstrate that you are open to improving while on the job. For example, if your supervisor hasn’t offered any constructive criticism on a project you completed, you could ask if there were any aspects that you could have done better.
8. Learn business etiquette
In order to take full advantage of your internship, you should aim to learn new practical skills but also business etiquette. By learning how to behave and conduct yourself in a professional environment, you’re more likely to fit in and avoid any faux pas in when you land your first role.
The best way to learn workplace etiquette is by observing others. For example, if most people in the office dress casually on Fridays, then you can conclude that this must be a norm. Learning what jargon used by coworkers is another way to develop appropriate business etiquette.
9. Get out of your comfort zone
When starting out in a new internship, it’s completely normal to feel nervous, uncomfortable or out of place. However, as the CEO of IBM, Ginni Rometty, once said, “growth and comfort do not coexist” so it’s important to step out of your comfort zone.
One of the best ways to do this is by saying “yes” to any opportunities that come your way. For example, leading a project, joining a committee, or attending a work event are all opportunities that could help you grow and make the most out of your internship.
10. Develop a growth mindset
The behaviors that you form during your internship are fueled by your attitude and mindset. And through adopting a growth mindset, you set yourself up for success in your internship and subsequent career.
A growth mindset is the belief that qualities, skills and competencies aren’t fixed, but can be developed over time. This means that you are less likely to become discouraged by any mistakes or setbacks during your internship. Instead, you will see these as natural steps in the learning process and have a more enriching internship experience.
An internship is a prime opportunity to accelerate your career and set yourself up for professional success. In order to make the most out of your internship, it’s important to remember the following:
- Setting goals gives you direction and helps you obtain tangible achievements that you can take with you after the internship.
- Cultivating relationships is the basis for building a professional network from which you can benefit from at any stage in your career.
- Developing a growth mindset enables you to be open to opportunities, better handle setbacks and accelerate your learning.
By following our tips, you will be able to level up your internship and give yourself the best start into your career.
Have you got any other useful internship tips? Share them with us in the comments section below.