Congratulations on landing your internship. How do you make the experience worthwhile? Here are a few tips on making the most of your internship.
How to Make the Most of Your Internship
Start with Yourself
Before heading into your internship, take a step back and assess who you are. Conducting a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis for yourself will help you determine your go-to qualities that made the hiring manager recruit you, and also areas you can work on. Is oversleeping a threat for you? Turn the internship into a time management opportunity.
Ask What You Can Do for the Internship
Most interns are interested in what the internship can do for them—land the dream university course or job, for example. Bring a service approach and ask what you can do to make your manager and team’s jobs easier. Check in with them to make sure you are, indeed, helping. And then go for it!
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What is your 30 or 60 or 90 or 365-day plan for the internship? Set clear goals. Perhaps my “ROCC-ON” formula might help.
Research the internship in Phase 0. Know about your firm’s industry/ sector, its history and current status, mission and vision, and clients. Read media coverage (not just social media but also established sources such as Bloomberg.) How impressive is it when you walk in on day 1 and can drop a current news reference?
Observe and organize in Phase 1. What is the financial and social pulse of the company? What are the critical projects? Is your company launching a new product or idea? Focusing on operational efficiency? And what role does your team play in these projects? A goal-setting plan created with your manager can set the tone for your internship, and give you SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, timed) milestones for internship success.
Connect with peers and as many managers/ senior leaders as possible in Phase 2. Strike up that elevator conversation and introduce yourself. As the popular title suggests, Never Eat Alone. Use lunches and breaks as learning opportunities. Schedule informational interviews with leaders to understand their career path. Connect with other interns and entry-level co-workers. Organize a team building event. If you think of networking as learning opportunities, you make it less daunting and more productive for yourself.
Create and contribute to Phase 3. Don’t just be a consumer, produce value. Refer back to your goal-setting plan and start checking off your objectives. And remember, the plan is a starting point, not an iron-bound contract. Of course, you can do the bare minimum and coast, or be proactive and go above and beyond. Companies appreciate team players who pitch in—whether it is pitching ideas or creating slide decks or making copies or doing a coffee run, put your hand up. And make sure there is one substantial project you have taken on where you can present findings to your team in the next phase.
Organize and synthesize your contributions into a report in Phase 4. Maintain a journal to note your internship journey and cross-reference with your SWOT and goal-setting plan. For your key project, you can consider contributing to process improvement at the company—such as content digitization, creating and updating organizational charts, or creating report templates. Invite your team to a presentation of your report findings and ask for written feedback on the content as well as your public speaking. This is a great way to get professional perspectives on your work—and can be the building block for a reference letter!
Network building and creating long-lasting connects is the last phase. Your internship has taught you valuable lessons, whether or not it has been a ‘dream’ internship. Thank your team and manager for giving time for your learning. Connect with the contacts you made on LinkedIn. Talk to them about possible career or academic paths that you might be taking and ask for permission if you would like to list them as references. And update your resume before you forget all the wonderful things you have achieved!
Related Article: Networking – The Most Effective Job Search Strategy
I am looking forward to hearing your stories and counseling you through your career trajectory. To channel a bit of Shakespeare, “If internships be the food of careers, rocc-on.” Wish you a productive internship!