By Erica Moss
It’s easy to feel like once you’ve scored the big internship, your work is done. All you have to do is sit back, do what you’re told, and wait for the job offers to roll in, right? Wrong. Internships are the best opportunity to witness firsthand what you could be doing for your job in a few years, but you need to actively show that you have something to offer.
1. Talk to Everyone
It’s easy to stay in the comfort zone of your department, but really take advantage of your internship by getting to know as many people as possible. The key to an internship is learning what you want to do and what you don’t. If you work in public relations at Edelman, see if you can grab coffee or lunch with an ad rep or art director. If you work as an intern for Georgetown University’s online masters degree in nursing program, try to steal 15 minutes from a director to talk about what motivates prospective students in the nurse educator concentration.
If nothing else, you’ll have a better understanding of the whole business. Plus, you never know, you might need that accounting contact down the road.
2. Be humble
The whole point of an internship is that you’re there to learn. You’re not supposed to know everything on your first day, so if you’re confused about an assignment, don’t be afraid to double check. It’s much better to catch a mistake before you make it, than to be too afraid to ask and risk your internship coordinator having to redo the entire project. To this end, bring a notepad every time you go to get directions. You might remember everything, but it’s better to have notes to reference just in case.
3. Brainstorm a special project
Think about — or consult your internship director on — a special project you can work on while you’re interning. Is there a difficult demographic the company is trying to target? Are they struggling with social media? Is there a database that needs to be updated or created? Not only will you make a mark as a go-getter, but you’ll have a tangible accomplishment to add to your resume (besides “official coffee guy.”)
4. Befriend your fellow interns
It may seem like a competition in this tough job market, but make the effort to get to know your fellow interns. Not only will you have someone to eat lunch with, but it shows the office staff you’re a team player. Learning how to work with different people is a killer skill to pick up while you’re interning, and it can be less intimidating to practice on someone your own age. Plus, fellow interns could be future connections for jobs and other career opportunities.
5.Do every job with a smile
Filing may not be the most glamorous of office tasks, but somebody has to do it. Make sure you show the same amount of enthusiasm and focus on every task, no matter how boring it may seem. Everyone starts at the bottom, and you may gain a better understanding of how a company works if you show you’re willing to do a myriad of tasks — not just the fun ones. Intern coordinators know some tasks aren’t fun, but if you show you’re putting just as much effort into helping with the expense reports as you do into something less tedious, you might be rewarded with a task you really enjoy.
Internships are a low-risk option for figuring out the next phase of your life. The people you meet and the skills you learn can be extremely important to your future. In addition to arriving on time, dressing appropriately and working hard, it’s important to pay attention to learning and improving your skill set. Take advantage of the opportunity, and you just might be the next one hired.
Thanks Erica, your experience is inspiring! Readers, did this inspire you to be an intern? Search for internships.