It is summer time once again and that means it’s internship season! I was thrilled (as were my parents), given the economic climate, that someone…anyone…let alone a company in my field of choice, was willing to hire me. Now, how to make the most of the experience?
Internships are meant to be an educational and career development experience for you, the intern. They are not supposed to only benefit the employer through cheap labor. Before I even walked in the door on my first day, I thought about what I wanted to accomplish this summer. For example, as you may have realized since this blog is posted through an HR consulting firm, I want to go into human resources and probably consulting upon graduation. My main goal for the summer is to be exposed to as many facets of Human Resources as possible. If you are doing an internship that you are not sure is in the right field for you, then try to help out with as many different projects as possible. Don’t forget to keep an open mind! Maybe you wanted a finance internship but got a marketing one instead. Look out for opportunities to flex your finance skills. Opportunities do not always just fall into your lap; you have to go look for them.
Try to meet with your manager, within the first week, to discuss your goals for the internship and your short term career goals. Confirm who you’ll report to and that someone is keeping an eye on your workload and projects to ensure that you do not have too much or too little to do and that there is some meat to the work. As the new intern, the company is probably excited to have some extra help and may put too much on your plate. Knowing who your main contact is will give you someone to go to should this happen. Throughout the internship, keep the lines of communication open with your manager. This will keep you sane and guarantee that the work that you are doing is at a higher level of competence.
Since this is an educational experience, don’t be afraid to ask questions! You are not expected to know everything. As much as you may like to think that that one accounting class has made you a master accountant, you probably do not know as much as your coworkers. That is okay! Take advantage of their years of experience and learn something new.
Take ownership of a project, if possible. By taking responsibility of a whole project, from start to finish, it will show that you are mature and capable of handling the work and the associated deadlines. It is also a good test for yourself to prove that you can accomplish real work. And think of what you’ll be able to write on your resume!
Sit in on as many meetings as possible. Many interns may not be pulled into more strategic meetings, but try to get into them! You will learn the process of preparing for a meeting, going to it and the follow-up. You may even be able to share your opinion which will also show that you are a contributing team member.
Finally, think ahead! Internships open up the doors for possible fulltime positions after graduation. Even if you do not think that you are at your employer of choice or in the right position, your coworkers may be able to help you in your job search or recommend you for future internships. Leave a good impression!
Now, will you hire me after May 2011? Please?