How You Can Make the Most of Your Internship

Wed, Feb 8, 2012

Personal Experience

For a college student, summer is often a time to either have a job or get an internship. And, oftentimes, the challenge between which one to pick is that while a part-time job at a mall or restaurant guarantees an income, while some internships actually do pay, there are even more than offer either a modest stipend and/or simply college credit. This can cause a student to wonder if an internship is worth it. The answer: more times than not, it is. Internships are a way to get valuable work experience and network with companies within your major. But the real winning plus is that many students find themselves transitioning from intern to employee following graduation. So yes, an internship may keep you from a (substantial) paycheck now, but it could be the key to a great salary in your near future. This is why it’s a good idea to do the following:

Take your internship seriously. Sometimes students confuse an internship with volunteering. While you should give your best to anything that you commit to, don’t look at an internship as if you are doing the company a favor. Be on time, do your work; be polite and responsible. The best way to look at an internship is like it’s a few months long interview. You’re showing the people you work for if you’re the right person for a job within their company.

Do more than what’s asked. Employers don’t look for people who will simply show up to work. They pay attention to those with drive, passion and ambition; those whose actions reveal that they are interested in doing what they can to help the company thrive and succeed. Go in 15 minutes early. Be open to staying a few minutes late. If there are a couple of tasks that could wait until the next day, but would be better off done as soon as possible, do them. A good worker is appreciated. A fantastic one is considered irreplaceable.

Make sure to network. If you talk to enough people in the work force, they’ll tell you that there are a lot of great positions that you’ll never find out about in the classifieds, on Monster.com or even Craigslist. “In house positions” are called that because there are some jobs that companies post within their offices because they want to promote someone who already works for them. Even if you are not thrilled with the internship that you have, but you really like the company where you are interning, don’t be afraid to ask questions about and interact with some of the employees in other departments. You might be amazed what you’ll find…if you seek.

Don’t leave without a reference. Most college students have already had a job before having an internship. This means that they have filled out a job application and that means they are familiar with needing to have references. References are people who are willing to speak on the behalf of your qualifications (and sometimes even your character) to a prospective employee. Therefore, wouldn’t it make sense to get a referral from your assigned editor or supervisor at the end of your internship? Even if you choose a different company or field, it’s a good tool for building your work portfolio.

Be open to multiple internships. There are some college students that are shocked that while academically, they excelled in school, when it came to getting employment, it was far more challenging than they expected. Yes, there are people who believe that if they simply maintain an A average or get an online executive MBA, that they are a shoe in for a job. It’s kind of a high school mentality to think that way, though. Remember, good grades got you into college and perhaps even a scholarship or a grant but after college, grades don’t hold the same kind of merit. Employers are looking for people who didn’t just excel in class, but were able to live out a balanced life. It can be a wise move to either pick a company to intern for and stick with them through graduation or to try your hand at a few internships while enrolled in school. An employer will see that you were a student, but also a consistent worker; that you could multi-task and that’s always a good sign of great potential in a prospective employee.

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