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Making the Most of Your Internship

Performing well in an internship is crucial.  In many cases, an outstanding performance as an intern can result in a full-time job offer.  Even if a full-time job doesn’t come through, if your manager and your co-workers see how well you perform, they will be your biggest supporters in the job search. Here are some important points to keep in mind as you get started on your internship:

Your Performance Matters

  • Work hard.  Do whatever is needed and do not assume that your education equips you with so much knowledge that executing low-level projects is beneath you. Don’t be the intern that turns their nose up at the “little” jobs.
  • People are paying attention.  Your employer is paying attention.  Even the little things matter.  The way that you interact with your colleagues, your willingness to take on the mundane tasks, how well the job gets done – it all matters to the people around you.  You never have a second chance to make a first impression.  Remember that these people will be key advisors and allies in your future job search.
  • Do your best.  The quality of every task you complete and every interaction you have with colleagues, partners, etc. will affect how you are perceived by your peers and colleagues.  This does not mean you have to be the expert on day one.  It means that every day you should show up ready to do your best.
  • Seek out extra work.  Show your willingness to go above and beyond what’s in the job description for your internship.  Be proactive in asking for more projects and responsibilities.  Look for opportunities to assist co-workers and volunteer for assignments that interest you.

Develop Your Skills

One of the key benefits of completing your internship is that you are developing skills that you will be applying in your career.

  • Develop your skills.  Challenge yourself by helping out with projects requiring you to develop skills that you don’t use very often. Observe the skills used by people in the kinds of positions in which you envision yourself working, and polish those skills.
  • Be a team player.  In today’s workplace, more and more work is project-oriented, which means you will be working on teams.  If you are a strong team player, you will be a strong intern.
  • Seek feedback from supervisors and co-workers.   Get a sense of what you are doing well and what needs to be improved on.  If feedback indicates that there is room for improvement, ask for specific suggestions on how you can get better and make it a point to get better.

Building Relationships is Critical

  • Network with co-workers at your internship.  Everyone you meet is a potential member of your network.  The more people who know you and your work, the more support you will have when it comes to turning your internship into a full-time job.  Some of these co-workers will act as workplace references for you should you decide to conduct your job search in another career sector or company.
  • Find a mentor.  A mentor can make a big difference.  If you have the opportunity, try to develop a relationship with a mentor who can guide and support you in your internship, in your efforts to secure a full-time offer, and beyond.  Ask to take that person to coffee to learn about their experiences and career path.  Some key questions you can ask:
    • How did you get into the industry?
    • What have you found challenging?
    • What do you think is most important for someone like me to know or to learn, to be successful?
    • What feedback can you give me on my work and development so far?

Interested in learning more about being an effective mentee?  Check out this handbook, created by the WFU Mentoring Resource Center.

  • Stay in touch.  Leave on the best possible terms. Always thank your manager for the internship.  If you are interested in working at the organization full-time, stay in touch and ask about openings.  If you have a close relationship with some of your colleagues, connect with them on LinkedIn.