Prospective interns are out in force this spring, looking for an opportunity that will not only fulfill their graduation requirements, but also introduce them to potential employers. During my career, I’ve worked with some good and not-so-good interns. The good ones were fun and the not-so-good made the time agonizing.
With this in mind, I’ve put together seven tips on how to get the most out of your internship.
Be a sponge
Bring your ideas, enthusiasm and an open mind. You are here to learn, from everyone – assistants, coordinators, directors and CEOs. They all represent opportunities to build relationships and learn new skills. Now keep in mind, you may never use some of the things ever again. It’s ok, you’ve got the time and anytime a staff member is willing to share a bit of knowledge, that’s your gain. Having an army of advocates will be a boon for your future career.
Padfolio, notebook, Evernote, whatever your favorite note-taking tool is – use it. You are going to be bombarded with information and it is much more professional to take the note the first time around. This will also help you after your internship. If you want to remember that website or follow up with a business leader you met at an event, it’s all there in your notes.
This goes for anyone in business, but especially an intern. Put down the phone, close the laptop and listen. If your internship supervisor, or an employee takes the time to have a one on one with you about your skills, pay attention. Being present also translates into enjoying your current opportunity. Unless you are asked, don’t bring up your empending job search on the job. No employer wants to feel like your stepping stone, whether they are or not.
I cannot stress this enough. There is nothing more grating than walking by an intern not doing anything, texting or chatting on a personal call. If you complete your projects, ask for more work. I’ve watched interns cheat themselves out of great opportunities by loafing around on non-work related social media or spending their time trying to socialize with other interns. Keeping a good balance of pleasantries and hard work is important. But keep in mind, that there is a huge difference between having an occasional lite social chat with a coworker and zoning out talking for hours.
Identify your strengths and weaknesses
Before your finish your internship, ask for a full review. Some of these things may not be pleasant to hear, but knowing where you need to improve will help you in your next venture. When you enter the workforce, you are going to get reviewed, so start now. If your supervisor doesn’t freely offer up an in-depth review, request one. If they are vague during the process, ask for specifics. This is about your growth and this is your career on the line. The details matter.
Learn from failure
You are probably going to make an error, mess up a task or miss a deadline. Failure is an important part of the learning process. How you recover shows your character. Do you face the mistake head-on or do you lie and shrink away in fear? Communicate your mistake and face your challenge. Then move on and don’t apologize incessantly.
Stay true to yourself
When you walk out of the office door on your last day, be proud of your accomplishments and that you made them by being yourself. For some us, it might be a toned down version, but nonetheless the real you. I personally take great pride in staying true to myself. How much I share at any given time depends on the situation, but being authentic is a personal core value.