The Five Things Every Intern Must Do to Make the Most of Their Internship
If you're a student, a great internship will give you insights into the industry you're hoping to work in when you graduate. But, an internship opportunity is more than just an eye-opener. It's your chance to gain practical experience, make your mark in the industry and meet people who can help you along the way.
So with this in mind, here are our top five tips for making the most of your internship - not just for your own knowledge and employability, but to prepare you for the future.
1. Do your research before you start
It’s not enough to approach an internship only with what you've learnt in class. To be prepared to contribute, you'll need to study up on the company, and industry you’re joining. Learn how it started, understand the products it makes or services it offers and look at how it communicates with consumers or key stakeholders. Who knows, your research might just inspire you with some out-of-the-box ideas that you can bring to the table when the opportunity arises. Sure, you're not guaranteed to change the face of the business, but being able to contribute meaningfully in a discussion will help get you noticed – in a good way.
2. Be proactive
As an intern, you're unlikely to be tasked with coordinating a team, or running key stakeholder meetings. You will, however, find you still have a lot of room to be your own boss. This means making the most of the autonomy you do have, and working out how to execute your role to the maximum benefit of the company. So, when you’ve completed set tasks and have nothing more to do, find out how else you can help. If you can see a way that you can do some running around to make other people’s lives easier, do it. Not only will you gain more experience, but you'll show that you're capable of working proactively and as part of a team - because success doesn't just come from the top, it comes from every individual member working together.
3. Pay attention to what’s really going on
Office dynamics are a curious beast, mainly because there’s often so much more going on underneath the surface of what is said and done. In some cases, this can be toxic – in which case you should steer clear - but in a lot of cases it’s just part and parcel of the realities of your organisation. So, be aware of your surroundings and absorb any insights you can early on. Not only will this mean you treat your fellow employees with the respect they're due, but it'll help you understand appropriate behaviour in your particular workplace. Remember though, if you're in doubt about whether or not something is acceptable behaviour, a rule of thumb is to say it's probably not - but hey, there's no harm in asking.
4. Ask for guidance
Don't ever feel scared to ask for help - as an intern you're there to learn just as much as you are to help out. But, balancing your thirst for knowledge against a desire to not make your questioning overly burdensome can be tricky. The best bet is to ask questions thoughtfully, after you've done a bit of digging yourself. That means, don't ask a question about everything that pops into your head. You'll want to show you're capable of problem solving, and independent enough to find solutions. Instead, first try to solve the issue yourself so you can have a discussion about the methods you've tried, and what may work better. That way, you can show you're giving everything a go, while still being keen to learn more.
We know it's a bit of an icky term, but never underestimate the power of your network as an intern. Having industry connections is invaluable when you’re ready to move from intern to employee, as it means people may already know your name and what you're capable of before they even see your application. But, proper networking is about more than sending a Linkedin request. Have conversations with people, not only about work but about them - everyone likes it when someone takes an interest in them. Who knows, you may even make yourself a friend!
It's super important to take an active interest in your internship. Even if it takes you out of your comfort zone – be enthusiastic, be willing and be heard. If you do that, you're well on your way to making a great start to your career journey.