4 Surefire Ways to Make Your Internship a Valuable Experience

by on November 3rd, 2012

Today’s post is written by Early Careerists, the information hub for informative, relevant, and fun career and leadership content.

Many young professionals today are intently focused on landing an internship. Certainly, with the job market today, it is quite an accomplishment to land any job. However, our sense is that young professionals identify accomplishment with landing the job rather than the experience and skills gained on the job. Indeed, the first step is to secure an internship in your field of study. There are many resources out there to tap into including Youtern, Internships.com and Intern Queen. We gladly endorse these sites as vehicles to land an internship. However, let’s takes the process a few steps further. Once you receive that coveted job offer and receive intern status, now what? How do you maximize time (which is typically limited)? What are some ways to make your internship a valuable experience, not only for your but for the company as well? Ok, you asked…We answer. Here are 4 sure fire ways to a successful internship:

1) Get Ultra Aggressive

Since your time as an intern is finite, it is vitally important that you get ultra aggressive, right out of the gate. There is simply no time to be timid folks! As you start your internship, be mindful that your company has likely seen interns come and go. They have seen good interns and bad interns. Your Goal: Wow them from the start. Put yourself out there and own your position.

2) Think Legacy

Ok, so internships are not for the faint of heart. You must find a project in which you can leave a lasting impression and in a sense, your mark on the organization for years to come. While it is not likely that they will erect a statue in your honor, it is likely they will remember you. And, you will optimize your development in the process. So, the first thing to do here is ask the question. “What are some key projects that need extra help?” “How can I contribute?” “Are they any projects on your radar that are worthwhile but haven’t been started due to resources?” Your Goal: Ensure that your contributions are leaving a mark on the organization, as well as, developing your skills. Filing paperwork is not an internship. Get engaged on serious stuff!

3) Get Uncomfortable

As you embark upon the first step of your long career ahead, remember this: The comfort zone is not your friend! Becoming an intern is a life growth opportunity. As with most growth comes discomfort…And we humans kind of like to avoid discomfort as a general rule. Bottom line: Hit this growth opportunity head on! How? Skill development! Now is the time to focus on developing those skills that you likely did not learn in college. These are often called the soft skills and you will need them to be successful in the real professional world. There are 3 skills that you should consciously focus on developing…1) Conflict, 2) Influence, and 3) Facilitation Skills. First, if you picture yourself as an agent of change, get ready to face situational conflict in the workplace. You must thicken your skin here. Second, your ability to get results is a direct function of your ability to influence others. This may take salesmanship, political savvy, or downright persistence. Build up your influence to drive results. Finally, you will likely be called to lead others. You will need to develop effective facilitation skills to keep projects on track and ensure that necessary collaboration is occurring. Remember, this is not your senior class project anymore. You will need to facilitate well seasoned professionals from many backgrounds and job functions. Get uncomfortable and develop those skills!

4) Close Out Strong

Internship vary across the board. Some are very regimented whereas others are wild wild west. Regardless of the internship structure, you must make a move to close out strong. A bad career move is to quietly exit the company leaving others asking, “Who was that?” To exit with strength, request a closing meeting. If you have the flexibility, send a meeting appointment to your boss and their boss. During this meeting, humbly reiterate how you think you have added value during your short tenure. Focus on the results! This conversation is about the value and results that you can bring. Finally, indicate a passion to return for duty. If there was an uncompleted task or project, offer up your contact information to assist others who may pick it up. These types of conversations make you memorable.

Have you had an internship? How did you make it a valuable experience?

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