Ideally, when working an internship, you’ll be part of an encouraging, well-oiled machine of a team. You’ll have a great boss who is a kind and understanding mentor. And you’ll report for work each day inspired, ready and eager to face whatever challenges the day would bring.
But it won’t be like that. Organizations, in reality, are often messy, and their priorities can shift, leaving you confused and lost. When working an internship, you’d be lucky if anyone remembers your name. And your boss would struggle to find the time to mentor the team full time.
You might as well admit it: you don’t have any marketable skills at the moment.
But don’t worry. You’re just starting your journey in what you hope will be a successful career. You have to start somewhere, right? In the meantime, you can either float along and go where the flow takes you or get to work and find a way to make yourself valuable to the team.
Make the most of your time, and get a better understanding of how organizations actually work. But to achieve that, you have to be ready and willing to put your shoulder to the wheel.
Making Yourself Indispensable
An internship is an excellent opportunity to start a career, gain experience and skills, and be employed at a company after graduating.
Here are some tips to consider when working an internship program:
1. Know Everything About The Company
After doing a round of internship interviews and finally getting accepted, use your research skill and learn everything about the company that accepted you. At the end of your research, you should be able to answer these questions:
- What does the company do?
- How does the company earn profits?
- What about the competitors? Who are they?
- How much did the company earn the previous year?
- Who is the company’s CEO?
- What’s your boss’s background?
- What about your boss’s boss?
- How does your team fit into the company’s objectives?
And as part of your research, try to be a customer of the company. Use their product. What’s the experience like? You can also try to talk to people who had the experience and get their feedback. If it’s a public company, you can find a few details of its current financial status. You might learn something about the organization’s current challenges and priorities.
2. Learn More About Your Co-Workers
Take the time to get to know everyone’s name in your department. Try to have a connection with them and understand what they do. Who knows, someone in the company may be working on projects or tasks that you’ll find interesting later on. You could also gain a mentor.
You might not be working for the company long term, but you certainly will want to get an excellent recommendation from them. Impress them with your work ethic and personality, and you’ll have no problem getting recommendations from them.
3. Set Your Objectives
See if you could arrange a meeting with your supervisor at the start of your internship to know what their expectations are for you. Get a concrete answer to what they expect you to complete every day or every week. Request feedback, too, to ensure you’re on track.
Don’t lose sight of your own objectives and expectations for the internship and what you hope to get out of it. Communicate your interests to the supervisor and find out whether they could give you the opportunity to participate or learn more about those areas.
4. Learn As Much As You Can
Getting to know the company’s culture and fitting right in is always essential whenever you start working at a new place. Observe and try to get guidance from the more senior colleagues. Get to know the company’s routines and the people around you. Peruse the organization’s reading materials, policies, procedures, and other company literature. Ask permission to sit in on one of the meetings to learn something.
5. Behave Professionally
Be mindful of how you’re presenting yourself to the people in your workplace. Find out the appropriate attire and conform to it. Find out also the proper email etiquette for the person you are addressing. And if you have any concerns about an issue that you aren’t sure how to handle, be sure you know who to approach. Remember to always treat people with respect. Say thank you, be on time, follow up, and follow-through.
6. Be Of Use
Sometimes, there’s downtime where you aren’t as busy as you’d like to be. If this happens, be sure to inform your supervisor. But when things are indeed slow, fill your time by reading trade magazines, or ask one of the employees if they need help with their task. You could also try to pitch an idea to your supervisor on a long-term project to take up the slack during downtimes.
As an intern, it would probably fall to you to do most of the grunt work. Do it enthusiastically and competently, and you’d have an excellent chance of being hired for a full-time position or getting a glowing recommendation.
7. Keep Yourself Organized
Be sure to take notes if you’re attending meetings. Get a to-do list and keep track of your deadlines. Mind that your workspace is neat and organized. Also, make sure to observe data storage processes. Your company might have a method of keeping files in central locations. Be sure to follow their policies on record-keeping.
8. Practice Time Management
Complete your tasks on time. Inform your supervisor immediately after finishing one task. If you ever feel overwhelmed, have a meeting with your supervisor and talk about prioritizing tasks.
Write down the projects and tasks you’ve worked on. Talk about your progress with the supervisor. It would also be a good thing to list down what you’ve worked on to add to your portfolio and resumé. And since some of these projects will be confidential, always ask for permission first before taking copies of the work.
9. Develop a Professional Relationship
Connect with supervisors and colleagues. Ask any one of them to have coffee with you. You can do this even after your internship. People usually like to talk about themselves and their professional accomplishments. You might not get an immediate response, but you can always ask again. When you think they are ignoring you, it’s usually because they’re overloaded and you asked at an inopportune time.
Remember that having professional relationships are essential in starting a successful career. Your professional network could help you learn about new opportunities and give you pointers on how to advance in your field.
10. Don’t Be A Brown Noser
Nobody likes a brown noser. Everyone will notice if you do that. Also, don’t be an over-eager puppy who craves constant praise and approval. Don’t ask for a permanent position after a week of internship, and you shouldn’t be criticizing everything in an attempt to impress people. Be genuine and do the job you’re supposed to do.
Working an internship will allow you to showcase your skills and cultivate new ones to make you a desirable worker. Look at an internship as part of a very long job interview. It can be more than a temporary job if you follow the tips listed above.
The time you spent and the skills you gained while working your internship will add experience to your education. Formal education is a great foundation, but learning in a professional setting will give you the experience employers look for.
Samantha is an HR practitioner who has worked with several companies to help them improve their HR practices. Samantha has gained decades of experience in handling all HR facets that include managerial relations, labour relations, training and development, recruitment, and compensation and benefits.
When Samantha is not busy at work, she writes articles about the importance of effective HR practices and why startups should always prioritize this area of the business.