How to Get the Most Out of Your Internship
posted August 9th 2017, 12:27 pm by Chloe Harbach
Hello! Chloe here. I am currently an intern at RedMoxy Communications. Having an internship is one the best things that you can do for your professional career. But! It is not enough to just have an internship slapped onto your resume. You also need to have gotten some value out of the whole experience. Here are my top tips on how you can get the most out of your internship. (Even if you don't love the experience.)
10 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Internship
This is one of the best things that you can do for yourself as an intern, and it is probably one of the easiest things, too. Before starting your internship, take 5 minutes to think about what you really want to learn while you are interning. Reread your internship’s description and look honestly into what you will be doing. Anticipate some of the projects you will be having. Then, based off those ideas, think about what you want to learn. If you view your internship as a learning experience, you are going to get so much out of it.
Share your goals with your supervisor so that s/he is aware of what you want to learn. If there is a goal you have that doesn’t directly fall under your job description, talk to your supervisor about it. Chances are, your supervisor will be willing to work with you if you are dedicated and motivated to do your best. Just be sure that your side projects don’t take over your main tasks.
Have Realistic Expectations.
There are some things that are just not going to happen at your internship. Sometimes, you are not going to get a job out of your internship. (Be aware of that if you are entering the internship for the purpose of getting hired afterward.) Perhaps you have your hopes set on getting to head a major company project. It may not happen that way.
If you aren’t realistic with yourself and the organization that you are working under, you could end up disappointed or with a bad taste in your mouth about the company. And that would just create all kinds of weird tensions in the workplace. You aren’t entitled to getting a real job, bonuses, major projects, etc. So, look honestly into what you will be doing and prepare yourself for what is to come. It really is going to be an amazing experience if you have the right attitude!
Say Yes as Often as You Can.
Speaking of attitude, if you want to be a memorable intern -- and believe me, you do -- try saying “yes” more. Ok, so don’t be saying “yes” to illegal work or things that break your personal values, but say “yes” to as many professional opportunities as you can. If your supervisor asks if you can sit and take notes in a meeting with the head boss, say “yes”. If you have the opportunity to pick up a side project working with other interns, say “yes”. There is just so much that you can learn from saying “yes” because you are giving yourself more opportunities.
Ask for More Work.
Now, there may be times when you run out of things to do while you are working. Quiz time. Do you sit and twiddle your thumbs while you wait? No, people, no. Head your tush over to your supervisor’s office and ask for more projects. Ask if there is something that s/he needs a break from doing. This not only provides you with another project (another opportunity to learn!), but it also makes you look like a really fabulous intern. Who doesn’t want a proactive intern? Seriously!
Learn the Skills You’ll Need for Your Intended Career Path.
This right here is probably my favorite tip because no matter where you are, you can use it. Say you are interning at a place you are not a fan of, working under a boss who you don’t connect with and, to top it off, you aren’t getting paid. You can still learn from this experience, though.
Think about your dream job, where you want to be in 5, 10 or 20 years. What skills can you develop now that are going to get you on that career path? What can your internship teach you that will give you a competitive edge? What resources or programs does your internship provide that you could learn from? These are the kinds of questions you need to be asking yourself so that you can truly thrive at your internship. This is where you need to be a little self-indulging. Think of your future and start building a foundation for it now.
Build Relationships and Network.
Here, again, is something that you can be doing whether you love your internship or not. If you are working with people, you have the opportunity to be building beneficial professional relationships. Meet as many people in the company as you can and learn as much about them as you can. Take a genuine, sincere interest in them. You never know what could come of it.
Now, there are two different kinds of notetaking that are great habits to get into while you are interning. I am going to briefly describe both for you.
1. Task notes.
Task notes are the scribblings you write down as your supervisor is running a list of things for you to do. These are the things that you check-off your list and feel really great about yourself while doing so! Details about projects, names of important people, steps to complete -- these are all task notes. They keep you sane. They ensure that you don’t forget to do something important. These notes are the life-line for your day-to-day moments.
2. Journal notes.
Now, these notes are the rope that you are throwing up the mountain so you can climb it later. And that mountain is your professional step ladder. OK, hear me out. While you are picking up valuable tasks and meeting important people, there are going to be little things that you learn about your industry and about yourself. Both are important things to keep track of. Later on down the road, you may look back and wonder what the benefit of task X was, and, if you have notes, you will be able to relive that experience. You may have developed a professional habit while interning, which you want to carry with you to the future. Write that down. Keeping track of these notes is going to help you develop your self-awareness, your observational learning skills and hey! you can practice writing while doing it! A skill that is highly sought after in the business world.
Keep Track of Your Interests.
You may not always land an internship that fits you perfectly. If you do, that is fabulous! But, be prepared that you may not. Look honestly at the projects you are doing. Do you enjoy working on that kind of work? Do you enjoy working alone more or in groups more? Would you thrive better in a small company or a large company? How would working in a rigid culture compare to working in a relaxed culture? Do you need hard-and-fast deadlines? Are you a procrastinator?
These are all questions that you seriously need to ask yourself if you want to find a job that is the right fit for you. Whenever I interview for internships, I always ask my interviewer about the company’s culture. 1. It is a question so that when they say, “Do you have any questions?” I don’t have to look dumbfounded. 2. Company culture is extremely important to me. I have worked in many different work cultures, and I have found that I prefer a laid-back culture where I am trusted to complete tasks on my own. I don’t like rigid timelines and quiet cubicles. I need to work with people who can laugh at mistakes and are self-motivated. Not every place is going to provide me with that environment, and since I know what I am looking for, I don’t have to waste time looking into companies that are not right for me. I can pour my energies elsewhere.
Don’t Do Everything at 100%.
Speaking of pouring energies… Alright, real talk. This is a daily struggle for me. I like to give everything that I work on all my energy, all my time, all my efforts. I want my projects to be the best that they can. The problem is that there are some things that don’t need to be done with all the smoke and mirrors that they could be done with. Some tasks and projects just need to be done efficiently and adequately. Figure out what projects and tasks you need to do at your best and which ones you need to just do well. And then also, prioritize.
You may be thinking, “Well, obviously. You need to ask questions about your projects so you can get them done”. And yeah, that is a warranted thought. So, let’s go a little beyond task questions. Think back to those goals you set and the skills that you need to develop to be one step closer to your dream job. What information can you learn that is going to direct your path? What details can you ask about that will give you a fuller understanding of your company and your industry?
Examples: “I see that our company keeps doing X, is there a reason?” “You said that it is important that I do X, why is that?” “Have we ever tried X to give us an edge over our competitors?”
No matter where you intern or what you do, there is value in the experience. Keep a positive attitude as you work and just do your best to learn as much as you can. Help out your future self.
If you have any questions about interning or about marketing, reach out to us here.