It is now mid-summer, and many students are halfway through their internship programs. They are no longer the new kids on the block, and are busy working on projects, meeting with managers, and interacting with other interns. But aside from completing assigned tasks, what else should an intern focus on to get the most out of their internship? Here are a few tips to help undergrads take advantage of their summer experiences.
Show humility and a willingness to work your way up
Many employers have expressed concern that this generation of college students feels entitled to receive high-level responsibility from the beginning. While you may be very bright and capable, take the time to learn the work. Don’t be a know-it-all. It takes more than 12 weeks to learn how to do your boss’s job; it can be insulting to presume otherwise. Show appreciation to your superiors for all that you are learning, even if some of it is familiar. Remember that no matter how much you know (or think you know), they know more. And as long as you are receptive to learning, you’ll be an even brighter star when the summer ends.
To piggyback off of the above, the only way you’ll learn as much as you can is inquire, and often. Many students feel embarrassed to ask questions, feeling they should “figure it out” on their own to impress their employers. Most managers you meet will tell you they would rather you ask how to properly complete a project than to guess and have to start over. A thirst for knowledge is never frowned upon. It shows your commitment to learning and doing a good job in your role!
Get regular feedback
Not sure how you’re doing so far? Ask! While some internships have regular supervision meetings to discuss progress, others may not be as structured. If you are not getting the feedback you’d like from your manager, request a meeting or two. Set goals to complete by the end of summer, and strategies/tasks to meet them. Ask where he or she thinks you’re excelling, and where you can strengthen your skill set. This exercise isn’t set up to highlight all of your weaknesses. It is to help you identify your strengths and improve your professional challenges.
Get to know professionals around the office at all management levels. Getting to know the receptionist, new analyst, and managing director can all prove to be valuable in different ways. Don’t just choose people you think can benefit your future. Everyone has a story, just as you are building upon your own. It can be very eye-opening and enriching to get to know your colleagues, and how they arrived where they are today. And don’t forget your fellow interns! They are now a piece of your network as well. Add people you meet to your LinkedIn account, and keep in tough after the internship is over.
Take stock of your accomplishments and growth
Keep a log of important happenings. Did managers take your advice in a meeting? Did you accomplish a task particularly well? Learn you’re a great salesperson? Write about it somewhere to refer to later! Had a bad day, a la Daniel Powter? Write it down, blog, journal, whatever you do to keep tabs on your experiences. What happened? What did you learn from it? How will you use the experience to grow? This is a great way to prepare for those pesky behavioral interviews. What better way to help you showcase how you overcame adversity, worked under pressure, and dealt with a challenging boss? Having a record of these anecdotes will help you provide much richer and fresher responses to employers during recruiting season.