As an intern you’re not expected to do great things. You’re overlooked, slightly taken advantage of, and quickly forget. You may not even have a last name—just [insert first name] The Intern.
But the secret is—they need you. They need you and they want you there, and there’s a lot of room to be great.
So how do you do it, you ask?
How do you intern yourself into a much more confident, smart and effective young professional? How do you intern to the point of greatness that they—dare I say—consider hiring you after graduation? There are five ways to achieve that. Here they are:
Meet the gang. In a hyper connected professional world every coworker—despite his or her age, position, or friendliness—could be a valuable connect you need to take advantage of. Unfortunately, work is a busy place. People are often too consumed with their own deadlines to have the forethought to come meet you, especially when they know you’ll be gone in a few months. That effort you’ll have to make yourself. The easiest way start a relationship at work is to ask questions and listen. Ask them what they do, what they did in the past, and what they studied. You don’t need to be cool or funny, it’s more about showing your dedication and interest. Once you’ve politely and professionally made yourself known, let your actions speak.
Be proactive with your free time. Interns can have a lot of down time. There will be tasks supervisors desperately need you to do, but if you do them quickly then you may find yourself hanging out waiting on instructions. This is your time to impress. Don’t wait for instructions. Don’t beg people who are not responsible for you to give you a task—pay attention to what’s not being done, and go do it yourself. Can you do competitor or customer research? Could you fact check and edit the company website? Could you write an intern guidebook? As your internship progresses you’ll get a better idea of what the company needs and what they don’t have the time for. Act on those observations.
Find out what they could be doing better. There are a million things companies would like to do or would like to do better if they had more time. That’s where you come in. Find out what they don’t have time for and see if it’s within your capabilities to contribute. Before you ask to do the work, put together an outline with: your strategy, your reasoning, and how long it will take.
Come in prepared. There’s no time for a learning curve at a Summer Internship. The time you spend trying to figure things out is time you could spend impressing your coworkers and building advanced skills. Ensure that you make a good first impression by showing up as prepared as possible to do the tasks assigned to you in your work description. If necessary, ask your manager a few weeks before you start for a list of skills to brush up on. You’re completely entitled to that.
Find a mentor. a mentor-mentee relationship doesn’t have to be as serious as it sounds. He or she doesn’t have to name you as their godchild. You don’t have to be nominated. Simply find someone in a position you’d like to have 10 years down the road, take him or her out to lunch, and express your desire to excel within the industry. You will be surprised how much fun a mentor will have taking a break from a normal lunch day to teach you the secrets of success in an industry they’ve mastered. Once your internship is up, make an effort to stay in touch.
Making the most of your internship is all up to you—kind of like college. It’s an opportunity to meet some awesome people with real ability to guide your career, and it’ll be the first thing you will talk about at job interviews. But with any great opportunity, try to take it one step at a time and don’t psych yourself out. If you’ve gotten the internship then you know you already have the skills to impress. Now go impress them some more.
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