“You need some experience to get experience”. This might seem like the biggest struggle facing young professionals looking to join the workforce nowadays. Employers tend to rely on resumes that illustrate a relevant work experience, and this could be obtained through an internship, volunteer work or an actual full-time job experience. That’s why, during your college years, working as an intern would, by far, be your most advantageous plan.
The two variables of every internship
When undergoing an internship, as a fresh grad, you will be given several assignments to work on. In some cases, you will be assigned a mentor. Your mentor is your guide during; he/she is the person who reviews the progress you’re making and, in the best case, is keen on sharing insights and updates about the industry and the organization’s plan to stay competitive in the market.
Your assigned projects and your assigned mentor are the two variables of any internship experience. Use the tasks assigned to you to gain knowledge about the field and to learn more about yourself, your passion, and accordingly, plan your career. Also, always take the time to arrange quick review meetings with your mentor so you can get constant feedback about your performance and what’s expected of you.
If you were not assigned a mentor from the beginning, you can always ask about that on your first day or even choose your own; choose colleagues you look up to and try to have quick talks with them over lunch for instance. The diverse information and points of view you will get from these conversations would most likely be very enriching.
Set clear goals for your internship
In any job, it’s essential to identify what is expected of you and what your learning objectives are. Your internship is no different. When you set goals with your employer, you ensure that the time you’re spending in the company will be dedicated to enriching your knowledge and enhancing your skills and performance. Having a clear, solid agenda helps you progress in a structured manner.
Here are some examples of questions you should ask yourself before starting your internship:
- What are the specific skills I want to work on improving?
- What are the areas or projects that my employer needs my support at?
- How will I seek guidance whenever needed?
- How often will I get feedback regarding my performance from my employer?
In my early career as a talent management specialist, I had the opportunity to interview and work with many interns. If I am asked to identify one critical factor in any intern’s success, I would say relentless punctuality. It all starts with your first interview at the company, show up on time and show your commitment towards the opportunity.
After you start your internship, make sure you keep a calendar of all the scheduled meetings you have so you avoid arriving late to any of them. Also, make sure you complete your tasks by their assigned deadlines. Summer internships are for a short, defined period of time, so make sure you are 100% committed. In this new environment, you are both a guest and a colleague; take this opportunity to show your passion for the job and to also show respect towards your team by always being on time.
Complete all tasks with excellence
In most cases, you will be given different types of assignments and tasks. Whether you consider a certain task boring or exciting, always pursue it with passion and a determination to succeed. If you were asked to make a Powerpoint presentation, invest time and effort to research and get inspired before you start working and make sure you learn how it’s done correctly. This is your opportunity to explore more about yourself and what excites you at work, never decline a task because it seems uninteresting to you or it doesn’t fit your idea of work. Be open to taking every opportunity no matter how small and learning from it; these opportunities are the base on which everything else in your internship will rest.
Take on more work
Use your free time to initiate taking on more work without being asked. In a work setting, checking your social media profiles while waiting for someone to give you a task is not really the best way to get an invite back. Instead, when you see something you can do, simply do it; try taking charge of delayed or undefined projects and completing them. You will most probably need guidance on some projects, but it’s always a win-win situation. When doing what no one is willing to do and no one is expecting you to do, you will get to diversify your knowledge and not only will you be appreciated by your team members, but, most importantly, you will also be remembered.
Ask questions, good ones
The most common indicator of an eager, performance-driven individual is the quality of his/her questions. Your internship is your gateway to any information you wish to gather about a particular, field, industry, and even the processes of work in a company. Be intellectually curious. Before starting any meeting with your peers, and after you’ve done your preparation, write down some thoughtful questions that would help you better understand the nature of your tasks and projects. If you are meeting with your supervisors, try to think less about your answers to their questions and more on what you’re missing. An internship isn’t only the company opportunity to evaluate your performance, but also it’s your way to know how well you fit in a certain role. Make sure you finish your internship with all your questions answered.
Own up to your mistakes
Making mistakes is a part of your learning curve; don’t panic and learn to take ownership whenever things don’t go as planned. When you accept the responsibility of whatever went wrong, you will automatically find yourself coming up with corrective actions that would result in faster resolution and enable others to see your leadership potential.
Here is an example of a possible scenario:
- You missed the deadline for an important task
- First, you should communicate this to your supervisor, providing reasons without making excuses. Example: “I underestimated how much time this would take me, and I take responsibility for that.”
- Next, provide solutions to how you will fix this issue. Example: “I reprioritized my tasks and will be able to deliver this by the end of today.”
- Finally, take the necessary actions to resolve this and make sure you reflect on your learned lessons to avoid similar situations in the future.
Collaborate with others
This skill is crucial in any profession; “Collaborating” means listening actively, defining needs and communicating effectively with peers. Whether you are working on your own or within a team, learn to always specify the project requirements before starting the actual work. Will you need input or assistance from anyone else? The sooner you define this and align with your team members, the easier it will be for them to collaborate accordingly, and the smoother your work on the project will be. Similarly, when holding any meeting make sure you share a clear agenda, so it’s easier for people to follow up. In case you are attending a meeting with no agenda, contact the organizer before it and ask if there’s any preparation required from your side before attending. Effective communication and alignment will serve you throughout your career so make sure you start developing this skill during your internship.
Internships usually last for a couple of months, and not all of them will result in a job offer right away. If you are interested in the company and your job role, you need to make sure you leave a memorable impression so that whenever an opportunity does open up, you would be the first candidate they think of. It’s always easier to just focus on your work and build relationships with the other interns, but on the other hand, forming broad relationships with your whole team and across the organization can help you manage your responsibilities while also improving your personal development.
Best of luck in your internship and beyond. When the experience is over, don’t forget to update your WUZZUF profile with your latest achievements.