Making the Most Out of Your Internship
You have an unknown, possibly intimidating experience ahead …
don’t focus on that.
You have the opportunity to learn, grow, and network …
don’t waste it!
You have an amazing internship or job in front of you …
take advantage of it!
Whether you have:
good bosses OR difficult bosses
great work/life balance OR no balance
great learning experiences OR no opportunities for hands-on learning
YOU control what you take away from the experience
and YOU control your reputation.
Right now, you are already in the process of getting your next internship, first job, or even your second job!
You are building your reputation and your network.
Which together, can open doors for new opportunities for you.
I want to encourage you with 6 tips that will ensure you walk away from your internship or job with an experience that has prepared you for the next phase of your career.
BE THE INTERN
(even when there are other interns there too)
From day 1, walk in with an attitude of I can do this. Decide now that you are going to take every task, project, errand that is offered even if it is hot, after hours, or basic work (coffee or errands). If you can prove that you can do the simple things quickly, professionally, and correctly … they will give you more. And if they don’t give you more, ASK FOR MORE!
Most likely a company is taking interns to not only teach the next generation, but to alleviate the work load for the employees. Those employees are often busy with all of their responsibilities. Make it easy on them. Watch them. Observe their schedule, tasks, needs. Listen to their needs or comments. Then begin to offer specific help.
Students have told me in the past, “I always offered to help but no one needed me to do anything.” Half of what they said was true.
TRUE: They did offer.
FALSE: No one needed help
Be specific when asking to help.
And if you can’t do anything for them that day. Then ask if you can sit with them and watch their processes and take notes. That way you aren’t in their way, you are just observing.
Take notes and find ways you can help the next day.
I tell students in my workshops all the time … “When in doubt, Google it!”
No company or boss is relying on you to be the expert or to know how to do everything. They hired you as an intern for a reason. You are still learning.
All they ask in return is that you have the knowledge and initiative to figure it out.
You have an incredible resource at your fingertips that previous generations did not – GOOGLE!
When you don’t know something, google it.
When you don’t know where to find something, google it.
When you don’t know how to complete a specific task, Youtube it.
And if your answers can’t come from Google or You Tube, ask questions in the beginning. Don’t wait until the project or task is supposed to be done to start asking questions.
So often students are afraid to ask questions for fear that they will look stupid. YOU ARE AN INTERN – THEY EXPECT FOR YOU TO ASK QUESTIONS! This is your time in your career that you get to ask a lot of questions.
I am not talking about “where is the lunch room?” or “do we get off early on Fridays?”.
I am talking about specific questions relating to completing the task or job.
This may come naturally to some and not to others, but this tip is important and noticed by others. Have an attitude of servitude and respect. Respect those who are above you in their career path. They got there for a reason. They could also be the connection you need in the future.
Remind yourself … “I am paying my dues”.
It is not forever, but it is necessary so that you know all parts of the business and industry. It is necessary so that you can be a better assistant, coordinator, associate, manager, director one day.
People respect others who have worked hard to get where they are.
DON’T MAKE EXCUSES
This one is a big one for me. I have seen it personally as a teacher and boss. I have heard other business owners voice their frustrations with it. When something doesn’t go to plan, when you miss the mark, when you forget … OWN IT.
This sounds like common sense, but most young people make excuses for why something didn’t get completed on time or correctly.
My advice is to own it, apologize, and communicate how it will not happen again or how it will be prevented in the future.
Show that you are learning from it. We all make mistakes or forget. That isn’t the issue. It’s when we as bosses or teachers can’t tell if you even think it’s a problem or that you can prevent it from happening again.
CONNECT, NETWORK, SAVE
I share this tip because it is the SMARTEST thing I did in my first internship in NYC. It enabled me to secure production facilities, vendors, and clients in my future jobs.
What did I do?
I made connections. I learned people’s names. I made an impression on them of being happy and hard working. So … when I reached out 1,2,3 years later, they remembered me and wanted to work with me.
Here is what you should do:
Record the name, title, company, and contact information from EVERY person you meet in every internship and job. Create a database (with my free Excel sheet below) of every person.
Connect with them on LinkedIn. See this blog post on utilizing your LinkedIn profile
F R E E D O W N L O A D S
THE EXPERIENCE LOG
Keep all of your experiences logged in one place so you don’t have remember everything.
This makes updating our resume, LinkedIn, and covers letters SO much easier!
Lastly, there will be hard days. (When you work 14 hours and never get a “thank you”)
There will be stressful days. (When your company nearly misses a deadline. Or when there is drama in the office.)
There will be days you feel you failed. (Like when I surged off a pant leg of a customer’s expensive PJ pants and had to replace them).
Be strong and smile.
Remember this is only a season of life and you will be okay. This the beauty of internships – you aren’t stuck! You get to leave after 2-3 months.
Sometimes it’s not fair.
Sometimes you are extremely tired.
Sometimes you just want to complain.
Instead remember you MUST:
Smile at work. Don’t encourage the gossip or complaining.
Cry at home. Call your best friend or parent and tell them all about it.
Then wake up, go to work again with a smile.
Email Eloise with any questions or updates!
I love to hear how new jobs and summer internships have gone!