You probably already know the importance that an internship plays for gaining real-world work experience and providing a springboard into your first (or next) job after graduation.
What you may have also realized, though, is that it’s not enough to butter up your resume with an internship here and there: You need to make the internship work to support the career trajectory you really want.
Once you have landed an internship, you may find it isn’t everything you expected. If you are yearning to get more out of it and aren’t sure how to do it, you’ll want to read about these four creative ways you can improve your internship.
1. Indulge in Job Shadowing
First thing’s first -to get the most out of your internship, and to determine if there may be a better field for you, ask your employer if you can shadow professionals already established at the company. This will help you assess if the field you are pursuing is the right path for you and discover whether the job is a good match for your personality. It will also allow you the opportunity to ask questions of people you may not otherwise interact with.
2. Ask the Right Questions
This goes a little beyond “water cooler” banter but the same principles apply: You’ll want to ask the people you’re rubbing elbows with how they got into the field, how they’re enjoying their work and in what ways, if any, their careers have taken surprising deviations from their initial expectations.
Keep the questions open-ended and avoid double-barreled questions – questions that bring up two or more issues yet expect only one answer (e.g., “Is your job challenging and rewarding?”) – to eke out the most mileage in the short time that you have together.
3. Align Yourself with the Culture
One thing that can also save you a lot of time, and potential miscues, is aligning yourself with the office culture that you find yourself in. Just like a university, different workplaces have difficult cultures that can make them more laid-back and, well, collegial or pragmatic and no-nonsense environments.
Does this workplace reward individual or team contributions more? Is it OK to be more upfront and ask for feedback or is everyone expected to be a deferential team player? If, for instance, you notice that a lot of attention’s paid to being prepared for meetings and using a more hushed tone in the office, then mirror what everyone else is doing to flow with the environment.
4. Network the Right Way
On the whole topic of melding with your environment, remember that there’s a fine line between being knowledgeable about the industry and wonkishly trying to impress people (and sort of alienating them in the process).
Whether you’re being considered by a panel or talking with your internship manager, you want to make it apparent that you basically know the drill without asking overly technical questions that no intern would conceivably have experience with or honestly be concerned about. Take it one step at a time.
Your employer knows that you’re there to gain work experience and act like a sponge – soaking up everything around you, networking where appropriate and building up a mini list of contacts that you can draw on later to bolster your post-graduation career happiness and success.
So, once your got into a good rhythm around the office and feel comfortable with those you’re working for, then it’s probably OK to start peppering in where you hope this internship leads or how you can start utilizing your internship experiences to better your chances of getting there.
Moving Forward from the Internship
Stay in contact with everyone that you’ve developed a relationship with and send around your contact details when the internship’s over to let them know that you’re still enthusiastic and interested in expanding on the opportunity!
For more student resources on internships, visit https://bridge.jobs/Student/Resources.