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Making the Most of Your Internship

June 3, 2014 09:00 AM

Its summertime and many students are taking on various internships between semesters. How do you make the most of your experience and impress your temporary employer? Here are eight great tips to keep in mind as you venture forth into your internship.

Keep Realistic Expectations. Most likely, you won’t be jumping into glamorous, high-profile work. Interns are usually brought in to help make the organizational team’s life easier during a busy period. This often means more menial tasks: data entry, photocopying, office duties, and other ‘stale’ work. Keep in mind that while the work may be drudgery, you’re getting exposure into the field and adding important experience to your resume.

Agree in writing what your job responsibilities will be. Most organizations with internship programs have agreement forms for you to sign. Be sure that this agreement represents what you wish to get from the internship as well.

Gain Trust. Interns often need to prove themselves in the work world, especially if you’re new to the career field. So it’s important you pay attention to detail, follow instructions, and care about the quality of your work no matter how menial and boring. People notice, and you may get tapped to do something more interesting.

Don’t be afraid to take the initiative and do the best you can. It is your chance to learn, contribute, and develop skills and behaviors you'll use throughout your future careers.

Observe and Mirror. Watch how others in the office conduct themselves, and try to copy it. For example, if employees are compulsively on time for meetings, so should you. While these details may seem trivial, they can often help you stand out compared to other interns in the office.

Learn the culture of your organization and be willing to adapt to it. Organizations expect their employees to "fit in" and accept the corporate culture. If you don't understand it, you are more likely to make errors in political etiquette that can hurt your progress. How do you learn what the culture is? Observe; when in doubt, ask questions.

Take Work Seriously. Let’s face it, mistakes happen. When you do make a mistake, make sure you handle it properly. Don’t cover it up or make excuses; own up to it and fix it if possible. Reassure your supervisor it won’t happen again—and make sure it doesn’t.

Plan to work hard and do more than is expected. Avoid "it's not my job" thinking. Take the initiative and ask for additional assignments once you've completed yours.

Feedback Is Key. Because an internship is a work-learning experience, you should periodically evaluate your experience to make sure you are getting from it what you expected. Meet regularly with your supervisor to discuss whether you are meeting your goals and their goals, get feedback on your performance, and to clarify assignments and tasks before heading in the wrong direction.

Ask your supervisor how you’re doing, and what you could do differently. Are you meeting the goals of the internship and/or the organization? Make it easy for them to provide you input; once you have it, incorporate it.

Learn from Your Coworkers. Don’t be afraid to talk to your coworkers—as long as you’re not interfering with their own work. How did they get involved in their field? What’s challenging about it? What advice do they have for you? People like to talk about themselves; by asking and engaging them in meaningful conversation, you’re setting yourself apart from the other interns. It’s also likely to make them want to help you even after your internship is over.

Dress Appropriately. This one seems like a no-brainer, but it’s amazing how often many interns forget this simple advice. Dress for the career you want. Find out what the organization’s dress code is from human resources, and strive to dress above it.

Ask for Advice. Don’t be afraid to talk to coworkers about your career plans and let them know you’re open to advice. Often, they can be a source for job leads, recommendations, and career choice suggestions. And don’t forget to say “Thank you;” it pays to be polite and courteous for any help offered or given.

Leave your internship with a good recommendation from your supervisor and stay in touch—networking is the heart of a good job search, especially if you decide that this is the career field that you want to enter after graduation.

 

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