Make the Most of Your Internship

Congratulations! You have completed one of the hardest, most time-consuming aspects of the process…finding an internship. Now you just need to figure out what to wear and where you’ll go to lunch every day, right?

Well, not quite. Actually, there are a few things you should know and do as you progress through your internship. Many interns have used these top five strategies for making the most of their internship experience.

1. Be a “Suzy or Johnny Good Intern”

Remember the kid who always sat at the front of the class, always listened intently to the teacher, always eagerly rose his or her hand when the teacher asked a question? Basically, he or she displayed all of the qualities of a “Suzy or Johnny Good Student.” When it comes to an internship, you want to be this kid. You want to show your employer that you are a “Suzy of Johnny Good Intern.”

Show your employer you are a good intern by showing up when you are scheduled, being on time, using your time efficiently, limiting socializing with other co-workers, minimizing break and lunch hour abuse and avoiding the gossip and rumor-mill. This is especially crucial if you are hoping to move toward a full-time job with your employer following graduation. You’ve probably already figured this one out, but employers generally believe that “Suzy or Johnny Good Interns” tend to make “Suzy or Johnny Good Full-Time Employees”.

2. Go Above and Beyond

There is a common belief held by many successful service-oriented companies. In addition to providing their standard services, these companies always strive to go above and beyond their customer expectations. For example, a customer may go into hardware store to buy a a lawnmower. The customer expects to pick out a lawnmower, pay for it and load it into his or her vehicle. The hardware store Manager would exceed the customer’s expectations if it sent an employee out assist the customer with loading it into his or her vehicle. Most likely, the customer would remember the gesture and be more likely to favor that store in the future.

Similarly, you will be more likely to receive favorable reviews and be considered for full-time employment if you exceed your employer’s expectations. For example, if you are a Public Relations intern and are expected to identify two new media sources a week, you could exceed expectations by finding four or five. If you are a computer programmer intern and are expected to test five programs a week, you could go above and beyond by testing six or seven.

The possibilities for exceeding employer expectations and going above and beyond are endless. In most cases, doing so will result in many benefits to you as an intern and as a potential full-time employee.

3. Display Energy and Enthusiasm

There is no bigger downer in a workplace than working with someone who is negative and apathetic on a regular basis. The opposite is true when working alongside someone who excited and eager to get a job done. The most successful interns are those that display an upbeat attitude and a genuine interest in performing their role.

Now, it is not recommended that you show up with pom-poms and a cheerleading outfit, but it is necessary that you maintain a positive outlook while at the internship. Being energetic and enthusiastic about an internship not only demonstrates sincere interest in your role to the employer, it also helps to create a pleasant environment.

Exuding energy and enthusiasm is also imperative for students hoping for full-time job offers.   Most employers have long held the belief that energetic, enthusiastic employees are happy in their positions and therefore more successful. Students who demonstrate these qualities from the start will more likely obtain greater opportunities in the future.

4. Network, Network, Network

Not only is an internship a great way to get experience, it is a great way to make connections in your field. You should try meeting as many people as possible while at your internship. Most likely, you will get to know your immediate supervisor and any co-workers in your  working area. It’s a good idea to also try to meet people from with different roles and from other departments (with your supervisor’s permission, of course). A relatively non-threatening way to network with someone is to ask him or her to grant you a 15-20 minute informational interview.

An informational interview is intended to provide you with an opportunity to gain valuable information from professionals in your field of interest. There are two types of informational interviews. If you are not focused on your career search but hope to learn more about an industry, you will want to do research informational interviews. If you are hoping to make valuable contacts for a pending job search, you will want to perform networking informational interviews.

Always remember that an informational interview should not be used to ask for a job. Rather, the interview should be centered on gaining industry insight and useful information. Also remember to observe common etiquette by being respectful of your interviewee’s schedule and staying within your proposed time guidelines. In many cases, people are more than happy to provide you with professional information and advice. However, do not be discouraged if someone is unable to fit you into his or her busy schedule.

5. Gather ‘Portfolio Fillers’

In many cases, your internship can give you a lot more than just a new entry for your resume. If your employer will grant permission, try to gather some items for your portfolio. A portfolio is something you should develop throughout your college career to use in your future job search.  ‘Portfolio fillers’ may include copies/summaries of completed projects, code samples/repositories, positive performance reviews/supervisor feedback, and letters of recommendation.

A letter of recommendation from your supervisor can be especially powerful for your future job search. Always be sure to ask your supervisor if he or she will write one for you (never assume they will automatically do this for you) and be sure to give them ample time to complete the letter. If your supervisor is very busy, it may be helpful for you to provide a list of your accomplishments throughout the internship. Bringing this information to future full-time job interviews will give you a definite advantage over others without it.

In conclusion, there are many ways to use an internship to your advantage. We encourage you to apply some of the suggestions made in this article. By doing so, you will be sure to ensure your success and make the most of your internship!