Internships are more than a summer job or a resume booster; they’re great opportunities for growth and development in the area you wish to pursue after school. Take full advantage of everything they have to offer, and you’ll learn valuable skills to make you an employee everyone wants to hire.
Here are 7 things you can to do maximize your internship:
- Take it Seriously
Future employers will view your internship as a trial run of what they can expect from you. Give it everything you’ve got, just like you would when you really get hired. Whether the internship pays or not, having the experience will give you an edge over other candidates with the same degree.
- Keep a Record of Everything You Do
One of the best things I did during my internship was keep a record of my accomplishments and projects. Be sure to keep any published press releases, blog posts, or other samples of work to build a portfolio.
- Accept All Opportunities
Regardless of whether or not the task is related to your position, accept the opportunity graciously. Your manager will appreciate it, and you never know when you might find a niche that you hadn’t previously thought of pursuing by taking on something outside your normal duties.
- Ask Questions
You should always take the initiative to research first, but don’t be afraid to ask for clarification if necessary. Many employers would rather you ask for assistance than flounder and turn in something they can’t use. Asking questions also shows you’re invested and can be trusted with projects, which may lead to more opportunities.
- Get Feedback
Set up periodic meetings with your supervisor, if possible, to review your performance. Though constructive criticism can be tough to swallow, it’s necessary to grow and become an excellent employee.
If periodic meetings aren’t possible, be sure to get at least one at the end of your internship. These questions to ask your internship supervisor are a great start, but be sure to come up with more specific and relevant ones, too.
- Stay Connected to Build Your Network
You never know when you connections will help you down the road, so stay in touch as best as you can. You likely won’t be texting your manager every day, but there are plenty of other ways to stay in touch after your internship.
- Connect on LinkedIn. You can network professionally, and coworkers can endorse you for skills you exhibited or learned during your internship or give you public recommendations!
- Engage in other Social Networks. Social media sites like Facebook or Twitter are great ways to stay connected in a less formal manner. I frequently interact with old coworkers/managers online and have built a strong relationship with them, some of whom were able to give me glowing recommendations when it came time to finding a job.
- It’s great to check in every once in a while to maintain your network, and email is a great option if you’re not comfortable interacting on social media. I’ve sent emails to old coworkers on several occasions. Sometimes I find a particularly great article they would like, others I just send a brief email when congratulations are in order. Just be sure to keep your emails short and genuine, as they will likely be read at work.
- Ask for a Reference and/or Letter of Recommendation
If you’ve done well there’s no reason you won’t get a letter of recommendation. Most supervisors will offer to be a reference, but it’s still good to stay connected. That way, you’ll have a stronger relationship and they’ll be able to tailor the recommendation to the specific job you’re applying for.
When it comes to advancing your education and pursuing your career, there’s nothing better than an internship. Getting hands on, practical experience in your field will give you a much better chance of finding a job. Better yet, if you work hard and follow these tips, you’ll become the ideal candidate everyone wants to hire. And hey, given that many companies hire their interns, you may not have to go looking at all!
Sarah Landrum graduated from Penn State with degrees in Marketing and PR. Now, she’s a PR Specialist writing in her free time. Sarah is also the founder of Punched Clocks, a site dedicated to helping young professionals navigate the work world and find happiness and success in their careers. You can find Sarah tweeting @SarahLandrum