In today’s competitive job market, it’s not enough to get good grades or graduate from a prestigious college or university. Employers want well-rounded candidates: those with academic knowledge, technical competency, grit, and hustle.
Beyond building your resume, an internship is an excellent opportunity to get real-world experience, helping you sharpen your skills and grow your professional network. Plus, completing an internship makes you 85% more likely to obtain employment following graduation. (Prosperity for America.org & Standout-CV)
Tips for making the most of your internship opportunity
According to Forbes, “The most successful interns learn what’s expected of them and then fully commit themselves to exceeding those expectations. They ask questions, know their priorities, deliver quality work and meet their deadlines without fail. Many also apply the “five-minute method”: They show up at least five minutes early, leave at least five minutes late, and care while they’re there.”
If you’re a college student or a recent grad getting started on your internship, here are a few more essential tips to help you maximize your experience:
1. Start with a game plan.
Before you begin your internship, strategize how to maximize the experience. “Think about your own personal and professional goals and design a game plan that aligns your job duties with those goals. Ask yourself questions like, “What would make this feel like a productive use of my time?” and “How does this internship get me closer to my professional goals?” (Getting Smart)
Then, consider how to improve your skills, grow your network, and maybe even get hired permanently. You can improve your chances by holding yourself accountable: Forbes advises interns to “set personal checkpoints to continually assess your progress and reevaluate how you can maximize every moment.”
2. Outline your goals.
To ensure you understand your specific role and how you can be most effective in your position, ask your supervisor questions: What are your daily responsibilities? What projects will you complete? Then, think about how your skillset can help accomplish your team’s goals.
“Share your goals and game plan with your supervisor and ask them for potential opportunities that will help you achieve your goals. Make sure you explicitly ask for ways you can best support the company or organization and adjust your game plan to ensure you meet those expectations, in addition to your own.” (Getting Smart)
3. Seek opportunities to listen and learn.
“Just listening in on a phone call or meeting might not be the most invigorating way to spend a couple hours, but you’ll be surprised by how much you learn if you actively listen. There are opportunities to learn about the company, content, work norms, people and players that happen in every meeting. It’s helpful to keep a journal or to make notes with questions you can later ask your supervisor, mentors, etc.” (Getting Smart)
4. Be professional.
Be aware of how you present yourself: Dress appropriately, and address colleagues professionally in emails and on other digital channels. And always pay attention to the basics: be punctual, be courteous, say please and thank you, and follow through on your responsibilities. And if you don’t understand a task or need assistance, don’t hesitate to ask for help or direction.
5. Stay organized.
Take notes during meetings and calls and use to-do lists to keep track of daily tasks and project deadlines. Be sure to follow company policy when accessing and storing your digital files to ensure your work is appropriately stored and accessible when you’re away from the office.
6. Show initiative.
Stay busy. And when there is a lull in your workload, let your supervisor know. Be proactive by offering to help a teammate or suggesting a new project that you could manage to help with. Going above and beyond what is expected of you is one way to show initiative and hustle that will make you stand out among other interns and build trust with your supervisor and team.
Avoid working in a silo. Instead, pay attention to the flow of the job and the roles people play within the organization. This way, you can anticipate needs before tasks are directly assigned, making you better prepared for your next challenge.
7. Meet people.
You might have a direct supervisor or a specific department where you work daily—but that doesn’t mean you should only associate with those people. “Introduce yourself to others outside your team, share your passions, and consider every conversation a potential opportunity.” (Getting Smart)
8. Keep track of your projects.
Columbia University offers excellent advice: “Start a list of all of the projects you have worked on so that you can discuss your progress with your supervisor. It will also help you remember everything you’ve worked on to update your resume, add to a portfolio, or talk about in a future interview.”
9. Be agreeable.
Be humble. While we all want to do “real” work, don’t overlook the importance of menial tasks or grunt work. You might be bored or feel your work could be more critical, but it’s still experience. Embracing that role with a can-do attitude says much about you as a team player. A willingness to participate in projects, whether large or small, with a positive attitude and the ability to learn is necessary.
10. Ask for feedback.
If your internship program doesn’t include an exit interview or formal review, seek input from your supervisor and colleagues. You can use their feedback to identify your strengths and learn which areas to develop.
11. Grow your network.
Work to create relationships with your colleagues during your internship. Ask questions. Get to know them personally. And then maintain these relationships even after your internship ends. You’ll have connections to rely on when it comes time to apply for jobs or look for professional development training opportunities.
And remember that your fellow interns are also essential to network with. While they might not be able to hire you now, being in the trenches with your fellow interns and fostering those relationships will go a long way as you grow in your career.
We’re excited to have an intern in our Cleveland office this summer. Kaleigh is a rising senior at Miami University studying communications and marketing. She has hit the ground running, rotating through all departments to learn about the different areas of our business and how they work together. Watch Shamrock’s social media channels for updates about Kaleigh’s experience.