There is a general consensus in the professional world that having an internship at some point during a college career is a smart move. But there’s more to it than just securing an opportunity with an organization in your field. In fact, internships are so common today—many academic programs require them to pass—that it takes some extra effort to make your on-the-job experience stand out post-graduation.
Perform at 110% every day. As an intern, you may spend quite a few days making copies and doing Internet research. But in most cases there will be opportunities to have a hand in the bigger picture. No matter what a supervisor may assign you, do it with enthusiasm and top notch quality. Your performance on the most menial of tasks will be noted, and can earn you more responsibility down the road.
Establish goals. In your first few days on the job, layout short and long term goals to achieve by the end of your internship. Your supervisor may automatically do this with you, or you may have to ask someone to sit down with you and help. Either way, specific goals will help you measure your success in the internship and will also be a valuable tool post-internship to exhibit what you have accomplished.
Trace paths to success. You will probably meet someone who has accomplished great things and has a career you find impressive. Sit down and chat with them to find out how they’ve arrived there. What positions did they hold earlier in their career? What areas of expertise helped them get where they are? Do they have specific suggestions for a young professional?
Network like never before. As your first foray into the professional world, this is prime time to start meeting people. Supervisors, co-workers—even other interns—can all be valuable contacts to have in the future. And the smart way to network is quality, not quantity. When you meet someone who interests you, make a note of who they are, where you met and schedule a time in the future to follow up and stay in touch. Networking –especially as a young professional—is not about asking other people for help. It’s about meeting people who can teach you about the business.
Find a mentor. If you meet someone you admire and they are willing to be mentor in some capacity for you, make the most of that opportunity. Some organizations automatically assign interns to a staff member during the term of their work. Either way, a mentor will be a valuable source of insight. In addition to on-site working issues, mentors can also give you good information about other professional resources. Are they a member of a professional organization? Ask if you can accompany them to a meeting to find out more. Membership in a professional organization can be an invaluable source of contacts, continuing education, even employment opportunities.
These tips can help you make the most of an internship. And whether you are entry-level or executive, they can easily be adjusted to use at any stage of employment. Start using them today and enjoy the results throughout your professional career.