28 Feb Finally, Here is A Cheat Sheet for Making the Most of Your Internship
Internships are super important for every college student today. Apart from them being ways of exploring the world of work, they help you acquire job experience. Recruiters will hire someone with job experience rather than someone with a general resume.
(If you are looking for feasible tips and strategies on preparing for your dream career, level-up with these exclusive best practices from hiring managers.)
Many companies are increasingly investing in internship programs as a recruitment tool for full-time jobs. Therefore, your ability to distinguish yourself from other interns contributes to your chances of getting hired. In this post, I will give you a cheat sheet for making that happen!
Have a clear goal
Internships are investments in your future. They move you even closer to actualizing your career goals. Consequently, you need to have a purpose for your internship. Be specific about what you want from the opportunity and work towards achieving it every day.
Your goal must not be extraordinary; it could be the skills you want to learn from the job and how you want to be remembered afterward. The effect of your work is often the most important thing.
Endeavor to merge your goals into your supervisor’s goal. No matter how significant your goals are, if they are not congruent with your boss’s, you are running a losing race. Therefore, be clear about what he or she wants from you at the end of the day and use every opportunity to actualize it.
Be a fast follower
Here is a rule of thumb: the first reason for an internship is to gain a hands-on, real-world application of what you study in college and to get an experience of what your everyday life will look like on the job. So, to make the best of this opportunity, you must learn as much as you can from your colleagues and your assigned tasks.
There are two kinds of people in every company: the high achievers and the lagers.
Find out who the stars are and understudy them. Learn how they approach their jobs, how they dress, communicate, relate to others, and so on. Find out what makes them shining stars. Success leaves crumbs, and if you show a genuine interest, you will learn one or two vital lessons.
It might not always be easy to make a connection, so you need to be smart. A gift often opens many doors, buy something like a cup of coffee for him or her (be the person is the coffee type, though) or bake them their favorite cookie. If that doesn’t work, find out what they are working on and see how you can be the “Mike Ross” to their “Harvey Spectre.”
Be indispensable but professional.
If there’s anything I can guarantee that EVERY boss dislikes, it has to do the work you should do. The fear of “turning assistance to resistance” is the primary reason many interns are not given responsibilities beyond minor errands.
So, your job is being that intern that goes above and beyond in executing tasks. Take initiatives, volunteer when the need arises, and don’t leave at the end of every workday until your boss tells you to go.
Depending on the company you work with, make time to connect with people in other departments. However, do not take more deliverables than you can finish on time. Learn to manage your expectations because you might not always get credit for your work or ideas. Above all, don’t be sloppy – present yourself in the best light.
Network but keep your eyes open
Relationships are the currency of the future. No matter how good you are, if no one can vouch for your competencies, you do not exist. Your internship allows you to connect with your workforce field. These are people who can point you in the right direction or serve as mentors as you progress in your career journey.
Nevertheless, don’t be carried away with networking and making connections that you forget your priority – your job.
More so, there is a fine line between networking and flirting. The latter is dangerous for your career. It’s easy to create a reputation for not interesting things, so be sure to know when the conversation is changing tones.
Finally, leverage platforms like LinkedIn to keep your connections together. If you want to go a step further, create a MailChimp account, and add your contacts to a list. Think of it as your personal brand’s mailing list.
Here’s another thing most interns do not know: no one expects you to know everything about the job or company. Consequently, one of the smartest things you can do is to seek and respond to feedback. Ask for help or clarifications because asking is a sign of maturity. Many interns have made terrible blunders because they were afraid or proud to ask. Don’t let that be you!
Here’s the right way to ask for feedback:
- Listen: Don’t be in a hurry to explain or excuse yourself. Listen to understand the speaker’s point of view. In the end, the reason for feedback is to improve, so look to understand not to have a ready answer/argument.
- Ask for clarifications: If the feedback is surprising, ask for clarifications. Perceptions are often deceiving, so be sure to understand what is required.
- Observe: Observing your co-workers and being more self-conscious could also be a fantastic way of seeking feedback. Observe the reactions of the people you engage with and adjust yourself so. Furthermore, instead of always looking at your boss or supervisor for feedback, consider asking your colleagues. They are the ones that interact with you the most and will often give you some of the most insightful feedback.
- Act: Acting on the feedback ensures the loop is kept and helps you improve. If the feedback is severe, take time to adjust, and then go back to the speaker with your questions. In any case, be sure to express gratitude for the feedback no matter what it is.
The ‘attitude of gratitude’ is an asset; it’s the rub for making lasting impressions. When you finish your internship, show appreciation for the opportunity given to you. If you do it right, you would have shifted the odds in your favor towards a full-time job.
Make efforts to share specific skills you learned on the job and thank everyone that helped you in the process. You could also add an individualized touch by sending separate notes to each person that assisted you instead of a general thank-you letter.
However, a thank-you letter is not a tool for ranting or sharing your frustrations. If you have recommendations you wish to make, express your views politely. More so, make sure that every piece of information you share is correct. Equally important, don’t ask for a job bluntly. Instead, you could ask for is a LinkedIn recommendation.
Finally, include your contact details and any other useful information. If you wrote a blog post about your experience (this is a great marketing tool for the company), add a click-through link to the job in your note.
Internships are great investments in the future. Nevertheless, to make the most returns on investments, you must 1) have a clear and precise goal for the opportunity, 2) learn vital job skills, 3) go above and beyond in executing your tasks, 4) create lasting connections, 5) seek for and respond to feedback and 6) show appreciation for the opportunity.
Tom-Chris Emewulu is the Founder and President of Stars From All Nations, an education company that unlocks African youth’s potential through EPIC events and an immersive career accelerator called ReadyForWork.Africa. A business strategist and trainer, Tom-Chris enjoys helping entrepreneurs and rising professionals to be successful and has consulted for brands such as the MasterCard Foundation, GIZ, British Council, among others. He is the author of the classic self-help book Breaking the Limits. Forbes, DW, Business Insider, SABC, and other publications have featured his works. Tom-Chris is a thought leader on youth development, social entrepreneurship, technological innovation, and the future of work. You can find him on Social Media via @tomchrisemewulu.