Make the most of your internship

Written on Feb 28, 2014

You got the internship you’ve been wanting and are eagerly anticipating your first day in the office. Now what? It’s important to go in with a game plan. Use these seven guidelines to make the most of your experience and gain benefits beyond just building your resume.

Take initiative

Take advantage of your time on the job by considering every assignment and task as an opportunity to learn. Putting forth your best effort, acting responsibly and being professional will go a long way toward proving your integrity, dedication and worth. Often times you get what you give, so investing yourself in the internship can provide big returns. USAToday.com author Susan Bowles explains in her article “An Internship Can Give You a Leg Up,” that an internship isn’t a job. It’s an opportunity to learn and your attitude is key.

Career potential?

Beginning on day one of your internship, you should be evaluating your workplace as a future employer. Consider things like the work environment, attitude of employees, job responsibilities, schedule flexibility and work-life balance. Ask employees what they like about their job and, in particular, the benefits of working for this specific employer. Take note of their responses and your personal experiences to determine if this type of job and workplace will be a good fit for you.

Make it your own

Be proactive in talking with your supervisor about ways to personalize your internship experience. Ask if you can do a few special things that other interns haven’t done. Be prepared with suggestions or ideas for added responsibility or beneficial new programs or systems that you could create and implement.

Network, network, network!

An internship is a great way to get personal references from a work-related contact. You can also gain prospective leads on other employers that might be hiring. Throughout your internship, take advantage of the opportunity to build relationships with seasoned professionals at the company. Stay in touch after your internship ends to keep contacts up to date on your whereabouts.

Gain company-wide experience

If your internship has you stationed in one specific department, ask your supervisor for the opportunity to shadow professionals in other areas of the company. Getting a well-rounded internship experience by gaining knowledge of other departments can give you a better understanding of each division’s role in the company as a whole. This awareness can be valuable in helping you understand how your work responsibilities fit into the big picture and impact the overall operations.

Track your progress

Be sure to keep track of all of your job responsibilities as an intern. Specifically note the projects you contributed to and the skills you gained on the job. This list can be helpful when summarizing your internship on your resume or answering questions in a future interview.

Leave a lasting impression

In the article “Students Describe the Benefits of Internships” on Monster.com, author Peter Vogt notes that, “85 percent of companies use internships and similar experiential education programs to recruit for their full-time workforces.” That’s good news for interns who take their internship seriously and put forth their best effort on the job. A dependable employee with a positive attitude and strong work ethic is valued by many companies. Be that employee and you just may gain a full-time job after graduation.

An internship can be a powerful tool in putting your career on the map. As you know, your job as an intern should not be taken lightly. Going in armed with a strategy for making the most of your internship will help you take full advantage of the opportunity and may even land future employment.

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