How to Make the Most of Your Internship
Whether you’ve recently graduated, you’re considering a career change, or you’re making the most of your summer holidays – an internship is highly likely to be on the cards.
An internship allows you to gain skills and experience in a field of work you hope to become employed in. Apply yourself during an internship and you’ll finish a better informed and more skilled person ready to take your career by the scruff of the neck.
Here’s our insider advice on how to make the most from your internship. Trust us, we run an internship programme:
Adapt to the company’s culture
Everyone’s different but there are a few basics you can follow to ensure you fit in with your colleagues.
- Dress code – the simple advice is get it right. Is everyone else wearing business dress? Then you should too. Don’t stand out like a sore thumb, it’ll just bring the wrong kind of attention your way.
- Punctuality and going home – some companies can be rather unforgiving. If your colleagues are at their desk and working by 9am sharp, make sure you are too. Perhaps they only nip out for a quick lunch and stay on past their contracted hours, take note. Remember you’re there to impress, so adapt.
- Socialising – many businesses thrive on good interpersonal relationships among staff and may encourage them through social events. It could be as simple as drinks after work on a Friday. If you’re invited – go! Even if it's just to show your face.
Do all the above and you’re more likely to be accepted into the team and your colleagues will automatically view you in a positive light; in turn providing opportunities for your personality and work ethic to shine through.
If you’re a fully functioning member of the team you’ll gain more support from colleagues, be given more interesting tasks to do, and ultimately leave with enhanced skills and having had a better experience. You might even be offered a full-time role.
Show an interest in the whole company
Your individual tasks may seem mundane, and often they will be, but how do they fit into the big picture? If the company has organised your internship properly than you’ll be doing work that’s useful to them – find out why and how. Show an enthusiasm for the mundane and you’ll likely be given more engaging jobs.
If your job is largely making someone else’s life easier, show a keen interest in what they’re doing and how they’re using your work.
If it’s appropriate, volunteer your services for a variety of projects – consider working on these outside of normal hours if necessary.
If you know the company inside out, you’ll become an asset able to make worthwhile contributions to meetings and strategy. Assets become indispensable, so a job offer is all the more likely.
Always remember – you don’t know the company inside out
“But you just said…”
Yes we did, but trust us this just isn’t achievable. If you think you know it all after a few months you’ll be viewed as arrogant. Treat the internship as you should treat life – never stop learning.
If it doesn’t come readily, pursue it yourself. There’s no harm in asking your boss how you’re doing, what you could to do to improve and such like. An enthusiasm to better yourself won’t go unnoticed.
If feedback comes readily, listen and heed its advice. It’s all part of the learning process, A person who shows a willingness to learn, adapt and improve is far more useful to any business than someone set in their ways.
If you follow the rest of our advice, this will come naturally. Networking is uncomfortable for many but, as businesses are people-led, it’s kind of essential to get this right. A company won’t employ or recommend someone they don’t like.
Accruing contacts makes the next stage easier, whatever that may be. If you’re offered a job you’ll be better equipped to thrive from the get-go. If you’re not, your contacts could help you get your feet through the door at another company, keep you informed of industry developments, give you a glowing reference… the list goes on.
Don’t become too preoccupied with networking
It’s not all about the connections you have, there’s the nitty gritty of the day-to-day tasks to be completed. Maintain a balance between work and social skills – a charm offensive alone will not work.
This is particularly poignant if you are working in your desired field. You’re surrounded by people who are doing the work you want to get into. Use this opportunity to help inform your career plans.
Ask them questions.
- How did they get to where they are today?
- How long did it take?
- What’s their number one tip?
Show your appreciation
Leave a sweet taste in your employer’s mouth. Let them know how much you appreciated the opportunity to work for them – it gives us a good feeling and manners cost nothing.
Learn from those who went before you
Some of our readers share their real-life intern stories. Learn from their experience.