Getting an internship is the easy part; now it’s about proving why you deserve to be there. An internship is the ultimate sink or swim opportunity. Nestled neatly between study and a career, it involves applying the knowledge and skills you learned through a TAFE course, short course, or university degree to real life situations.
With the potential for a permanent opportunity ahead, an internship can carry a lot of pressure. There are a number of points you should focus on to ensure that you make the most out of your position. Read on to learn how to maximize your next internship.
1. Treat it like a job
Many interns take their placement as a breezy break from studying, when this is far from the case. You should treat your internship as a trial run for a new job. It’s only a short period of time, so there’s no excuse for turning up late, sloppy dressing, or underperforming. No one expects you to be perfect, or to never make mistakes, but you should come to work each day with a driven mindset and a smile on your face.
2. Go the extra mile
In a busy workplace, sometimes the intern’s duties can slide down the to-do list. The worst thing that you can do during your placement is to sit in a corner and twiddle your thumbs. If you haven’t been assigned a task, then talk to your supervisor to see if there is anything you can be doing.
Chat with your coworkers who look swamped, and offer to lend a hand. Ask your supervisor whether you can brush up on any reading or free resources on your own time that will help you perform better. No one is going to forget about the intern who helped solve a problem or contributed to a big project.
3. Ask plenty of questions
There are no stupid questions when you’re an intern; everyone understands that you’re there to learn. In a supportive workplace, your coworkers should take the time to chat about aspects of the business or industry that interest you. A TAFE course or short course will only prepare you so much for the workplace, as a large part of fitting in relies on chatting with your colleagues.
Asking questions can also help you clarify any grey areas of conduct at your company. For example, you may be working on a confidential project that can’t be talked about outside the office, but you might not know this unless you explicitly ask about it.
4. Be clear from the outset
Usually, you will be able to select which role you want to shadow, rather than just be placed within the wider organization. If you’re unsure which role you want to shadow, speak about your interests and ask for advice. Your supervisor may be able to suggest a role that best suits your attributes and aspirations. Make it clear if you want a takeaway piece from this internship, such as an article or portfolio piece, which can demonstrate evidence of your learning.
5. Never waver in your commitment
There will be times when you are asked to complete a menial task. This is simply part of being in a workplace. Don’t roll your eyes. As a graduate, you will be starting on the first rung before moving upward. Be grateful for challenges when they arise, and accept the fact that banal duties are often a part of adult working life.
You may experience wins and losses during your placement. It’s important to keep a level head and not let your successes fuel your ego or your failures get you down. Keep your chin up and work toward making a consistently good impression.
6. Juggle your time
If you’re given a small task, don’t drag it out to take the whole day. Likewise, if you’re given three assignments all due on the same day, then ask your employer how best to prioritize them to ensure you can finish them all on time. It is not your supervisor’s job to babysit you. You will be expected to work autonomously and stay on task without someone watching over your shoulder at all times.
7. Take notes
Rather than whip out your phone, lest you appear to be off task, carry a trusty notepad with you at all times. Taking notes shows your dedication and also creates a resource that you can use in the future if you ever have to reference an idea from a meeting. And down the line, if you apply to this company for a full-time job and manage to land an interview, your notes can provide talking points for you on the company that may give you a competitive advantage over other applicants.
The stress of finding an internship often overshadows the reality of the internship experience, whether good or bad. While many internships are intended to teach you about the field, there are oftentimes setbacks many do not discuss, ranging from financial setbacks to experiences that do not lend a true light into the job.
If you are a student attending a liberal arts college, it can be difficult to explain how exactly your degree will help you excel in an internship or job. Unlike a vocational degree, a liberal arts education often does not directly translate into a specific career path.