In an ideal world, we would run out of college and straight up the corporate ladder. Unfortunately, we start on the bottom ring and have to inch our way up. This means we probably will have to take an internship (or two). The intern is often stereotyped as the office coffee grabber or the king/ queen of photocopies and document filing. Luckily over time, the role has morphed into a valuable learning experience that can lead to a soft opening to your desired career path. Many find their true passion for the job during an internship, while others discover that given career path isn’t right for them. It’s all about the attitude and approach you take towards your experience. Here are five tips to help master the internship:
- Know your job duties
Like any job, you go through an interview process. For your internship interview, ask about the specifics of the role. In some places, you will be getting coffee and making photocopies. The interview is a great time to evaluate whether the opportunity is right for you. Recent college graduates are often eager to grab on to the first offer that comes their way, but make sure the offer is beneficial to your long-term goals. Just like with a job, it is perfectly acceptable to say no to an offer that isn’t a good fit.
- Earn trust early on
Going into an internship can feel like you’re starting out without knowing anything. Sure, you have the skill set from college classes and maybe relevant side jobs, but you haven’t experienced the real deal. Don’t sweat it. Go into the experience knowing that you have to work your way up. Take on odd jobs and help out wherever possible. Taking on little tasks and being the “go to” intern will create a solid relationship built on trust.
- Take work seriously: Work harder than the seniors
Along with building trust, you are going to have to work harder than ever before. Treat the internship like a test. They are giving you problems to solve and your responses will be assessed accordingly. Those that studied will get a higher grade, or in real life, they will be the ones hired on. You want to take this time to show that you are committed and are capable of producing quality work. You’ve heard the phrase, “Be the last person to leave.” This is crucial during an internship. Senior associates often stay the latest and put in the extra time; imagine if you stayed with them and offered to help however you can.
- Ask for feedback
Take advantage of the brilliant minds of veteran employees. They have been in your place and have learned the lessons you are facing. Once you have established relationships with a mentor or close coworker, ask if they would be willing to take a look at your work. Receiving impartial feedback on your portfolio, resume, or any personal projects, especially if you are in the creative industry, will be a great opportunity for you to improve and grow.
- Learn everything you can!
The most important part of an internship is the feeling that you’ve gained some valuable insight during the process. Whether it’s learning a new skill or gaining the necessary experience to take on future roles, use your internship as a learning tool. Try new things and expand your knowledge; this opportunity will not be there forever. Use this time to learn more about yourself and your long-term career goals.
You just landed your first internship. Congrats. Now, be prepared to work harder than you ever have before. You’ve got to prove that you were the right choice of hundreds of other applicants. This is the first step into making it into the big leagues, so use it wisely.