As everyone knows, internships are a perfect chance to hone your skills and gain hands-on experience. But how can you make the most of your internship? How can you not only make a positive impact on your manager and your colleagues, but also use your internship to build your network, leverage your skills, enhance your job prospects, and simply have a more rewarding time? How can you be the best intern ever? Here’s what a few business leaders, recruiters, and career coaches have to say:
Do your homework (then check it again).
Obviously, you’ve learned everything you can about your new company. But right before your start date, you should refresh your memory and do some additional research on the organization’s history and culture, says Kerry Schofield, a psychologist and chief psychometrics officer at Good.Co, a professional assessment and self-improvement platform. “By being prepared, you will feel more confident going into the internship,” Kahn adds. “Start your first day with a general understanding of the industry, its buzzwords, the company, and your boss. This will make you sound more knowledgeable and confident.” Check the company’s latest news; revisit your new manager’s LinkedIn page to see if there are any updates. Know stuff.
Network (and keep your network alive).
Networking with your new colleagues is one of the most important things you can do as an intern. Some of the contacts you make may very well last a lifetime. “Take the opportunity to build as many quality relationships in your internship as possible,” suggests Ryan Kahn, a career coach and founder of The Hired Group. “The more colleagues know you and what you’re capable of, the more support you will have once it’s time to turn your internship into a full-time job.” And once your internship is over, remember to send a thank you note to your supervisor and anyone else who played a key role in making your internship a success. Keeping in touch with these contacts after your departure is also a great way to keep abreast of future opportunities.
Socialize (without telling your life story).
While networking can help you connect professionally with people in your company, you should also get to know your fellow interns and colleagues in environments outside of the office. Go out for lunch or drinks together. In fact, be the one who initiates the event! But remember not to overshare. “It’s great for interns to get to know one another – and their superiors – but be careful of the amount of personal information you share and how you behave while socializing,” says Morris Rishty, CEO of REAL Underwear. “Your new colleagues and fellow interns may act like your friends, but it’s always best to socialize with a filter just in case.”
Do all that’s asked (but go the extra mile).
“Don’t wait for someone to ask you to do something”, says Ellie Mirman, CMO of Crayon.co. “Execute on the projects given to you, but don’t stop there. Identify problems in the business and find ways to solve them. This shows that you’re not just ready to jump in, but that you’re also hungry enough to go ahead and do it. It also shows that you’re smart – able to identify problems and solutions – and that you put your actions where your mouth is. Even in the most successful business, there are problems to be solved. If you’re not sure where to start, talk to employees and learn about their challenges and think about how you can make their lives easier.” Initiative is one of the most important qualities you can show to your colleagues – and your manager.
Ask for feedback (all along the way).
Jon Fuller, Senior Admissions Consultant at Clear Admit, advises interns to proactively seek feedback. “It’s pretty typical to have a performance review towards the conclusion of an internship (the ultimate review often being in the form of an offer letter … or not). But it’s in your best interests to check your status along the way, too. Early on, ask your internship manager about having a mid-point review (or more frequent depending on the situation). Divide your big project into smaller deliverables and get feedback while you work on those components. Course corrections and building on your successes over your internship can go a long way to ensuring a great experience.” And don’t hesitate to ask your colleagues how they think you’re doing. All feedback is useful – even the negative kind.
Don’t forget to relax (and enjoy yourself).
Although you’ll be working hard, Ivan Kerbel, CEO of Practice MBA, has one last reminder: “It’s important that you enjoy your internship simply for what it is…an amazingly compressed chunk of time in which you have an opportunity to learn new information, build your skills, take on new challenges, and get to know a new company… Savor as much of the experience as you can!”