Summer is just around the corner and, after countless applications and numerous interviews, you’ve landed that elusive summer internship! Whether it’s the job of your dreams with a Fortune 500 company or a gig with a sassy start-up boasting a staff of you can count on your fingers, here are nine ways to get the most of your experience this summer.
You’re the newest to arrive on the corporate totem pole. So, even before you step through the front doors of the office, make sure that you know about your company; its mission statement, leadership, board of directors, professional leadership, goals and accomplishments, etc. This will give you the kickstart you need to get off on the right foot.
While it’s normal to be nervous anytime you encounter a new endeavor, try not to stress too much. You’re likely to be confused, excited, overwhelmed, bored, and worried all within the space of a single work day. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, reach out and talk with your supervisor – just be sure to be respectful of his/her time.
Businesses are made of individuals, with a diverse array of talents, pulling together for a set of goals. No one expects you to know everything. So bring all the skills you’ve accumulated up until now to the table and then – when you’re faced with a problem you can’t seem to tame – reach out and ask your supervisor and coworkers for help. Also, be sure to find a mentor. A mentor is someone at a higher level in the organization that looks out for you and makes sure you are learning what you need to know and accomplishing what you need to do – this could be your immediate supervisor or someone else in the company. Try to avoid the trap of claiming to know how to solve a problem or use a program/system when you don’t.
Whether you use Evernote, Google calendar, or a paper “to do list,” write down your short and long term tasks. You don’t want to drop the ball on an important project because you forgot to note it down. Once you complete a task, check it off your “to do list” and bask in the feeling of accomplishment.
Whether you’re commuting on the metro or grabbing a ride to workplace from a friend, there’s a few practical items to have on-hand: a notebook and pen, a snack to get you though the 2:00 p.m. sugar crash, cash, a metro/train/bus pass, and a phone charger. By having these thing on your person, you can avoid unnecessary stress, discomfort, and worry.
Do you have some advanced Excel skills? Know how to code in Python? Can you copy edit like a champ? Let you supervisor know. And, if the opportunity presents itself, dive into a tough project problems and where your skill set can shine. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, 61 percent of students who had internships have job offers by the end of their senior year, compared with 28 percent of students who skipped the internship. Do yourself a service the best possible service by giving it your all.
As an intern, you should check your pride at the door. Despite your tip-top grade point average or how many accolades you’ve racked-up at Georgetown, you may at times find yourself saddled with tasks that seem mundane, repetitive, etc. Ideally, 60% of your duties would be considered professional (blogging! marketing! event management! VIP outreach!) while 40% would be paraprofessional – those jobs that are part of the daily routine of keeping an organization running. That said, you’re still likely to find the overall experience valuable if you can remain passionate about it. So, when time is dragging on, take the long view and work through it. Ten years down the line when you’re successful, you’ll likely be able to look back and smile about the time when you had to race to Office Max to pick-up a printer cartridge.
Despite the proliferation of online job search tools (LinkedIn, Monster.com, Idealist.com, etc.) most people still find their jobs through in-person networking and referrals from coworkers. A 2012 ABC News poll found that 80% of people found their jobs through networking. So when thinking about your next career step – be it a new internship or a job upon graduation – it’s pivotal that you build relationships with your colleagues as they can turn you on to openings and provide job hunting tips and advice.
While you may be working an eight+ hour stretch and running to and from your train/bus/car pool each day, don’t forget to enjoy yourself. Yes, it is still a job but balance the demands of the workplace with the fact that it is still your summer. Go to lunch with other interns and explore you’re surroundings. Join your coworkers for after hours social gatherings. Remember, you had to jump through some hoops to land this internship so get the most out of it you can. There will be days that drag on. But when the final day of the internship ends and your thoughts turn to another semester on the Hilltop, you can hold your head high knowing that you accomplished more than you have before.