5+ Ways to Maximize your Internship Experience
5 months later and here I am—I have successfully wrapped up my first internship with LaneTerralever, a leading full-service advertising agency in Phoenix, Arizona. Not only was this my first internship, but also my first time working in a professional office environment. With my time spent here, I developed strong relationships, learned more than I expected, and had fun. If you're in the process of applying for internships or you currently possess one, I hope you extract what I've learned and apply it to your experience. Enjoy!
Meet New Friends, not Co-workers
Being in an office setting as a college student, it's easy to arrive to work, complete your tasks, and drive back home. Many interns don't take advantage of developing relationships with the people around them. To make the most out of your internship, it's imperative to get to know your co-workers on a personal level. Treat them as friends that you're comfortable sharing your ideas and opinions with. This will ultimately make your experience more enjoyable.
So the next time you're in the office, schedule time with a co-worker you're interested in talking with to grab some lunch. Ask questions such as, "what steps did you take to get here?" "why did you choose the_____ industry?" There's plenty of questions to ask, so I'll leave that part up to you.
Another benefit to developing these relationships are referrals. When I was heading to New York to set up informational interviews, a few of my co-workers were happy to refer me to people they knew in the city. When I was searching for a new internship, my boss was even happy to refer me to someone at the agency I'll be starting my new part-time job with this week.
This is a big one. To make yourself a valuable asset to the team, take initiative and offer to help your bosses/co-workers. There shouldn't be a dull moment during your internship. Helping your team will also advance your learning and help you develop new skills. After all, that is why you're interning, right? Your boss will certainly appreciate all of the help you provide. Trust me, it won't go unnoticed.
Recognize where someone may need help and try to make their life a little easier. If you are given the green light by your boss, you can even help others in different departments. Like I mentioned above, this will help advance your learning tenfold.
Value your Ideas
I understand. You may be thinking, "I'm just an inexperienced intern that is incapable of offering valuable ideas." WRONG! If you have an idea, speak up--even if it's a stupid one. Everyone will appreciate your input and may bounce ideas from the one you provided.
Just remember that we've all encountered different experiences, come from different backgrounds, and have overcome different situations. Each teammate has something unique to offer and so do you--no matter how old or inexperienced you are.
Always Ask Questions
As often as you may hear this, there's a reason why. Asking questions is imperative to a successful internship. It’s ten times better asking a dumb question than not asking at all. The last thing you want is to make a critical mistake in your work simply because you were too afraid to ask. Even if it’s just for clarity or for confirmation, ASK QUESTIONS.
Be a Decent Human Being
Yes, sadly I do have to add this. Given our current society we live in and the bad habits many of us students have picked up along the way, never forget to apply the soft skills our parents have taught us. Be kind, be respectful, and acknowledge.
Don't be that person who quickly turns to their phone when walking past someone in the hallway. Put the phone down and acknowledge them. All it takes is a simple “hello.” So the next time you’re grabbing a La Croix from the fridge, introduce yourself to someone you may have briefly encountered before. You never know how that relationship may benefit you in your future endeavors.
Ask and You Shall Receive
If you want to take on a new project, ask. If you want to sit in on a meeting to experience the dynamic, ask. The worst thing your boss can say is no and you’ll just be in the same place you were 5 seconds prior. Asking for what I wanted made my internship experience that much more fun and exciting.
Remember, a closed mouth doesn’t get fed.
Above all else, work your ass off. Demonstrate the work ethic you told your company you have. If you’re attempting to transition your internship to a full-time job, this is especially important. If you don’t feel like you’ve been given enough work, ask for more. Your boss will appreciate it.
Don’t aim to be an ordinary intern—aim to be THE intern that makes a difference. Every day, you should be walking in to work with the mindset of “how will I make an impact today?” Work hard, be kind, and offer help.