Internships are often the first time students are exposed to the real job world and, no matter what the position, it can be an excellent opportunity to learn about work. The lessons learned from internship can influence a student’s future job and career path decisions.
Internships can be obtained in many different settings, including major corporations, the government, a family business, the company of a family friend, or even offering your services to a company at which you would like to work. Executives may create an internship if they are impressed by an individual who takes initiative and wants to work hard and learn about business.
Be wary of unpaid internships, however, because there is more likelihood you will be taken advantage of in terms of long hours and unusual job requests. You will be accorded more respect if you are on the payroll, no matter how small your salary.
Accept the internship only after you fully explore what is expected of you, and you agree to it. Ask for a letter that describes your duties. Most employers will already have such a document to hand to you. Know who in authority you can reach out to if you have an on-the-job problem – someone other than your immediate supervisor.
Once the internship is obtained, learn as much as you possibly can. It does not matter if the employer is a government agency or a construction company; you can gain invaluable experience, learn what it is like to work day in and day out, and perhaps even uncover a hidden skill or aptitude.
To learn as much as possible, however, you have to take the internship seriously. Treat the employer as a potential long-term relationship. If you do an outstanding job, the internship company could be a good reference for future jobs.
Expand the Experience
Internship go by quickly and some interns realize too late that they never learned about other parts of the organization. After being on the job for a few weeks, see if you can spend a little time observing other areas. You have to be useful to the organization and to the person who hired you, but you might be able to create your own pseudo-training program where you can learn a little about other departments.
Ask your boss if she knows other areas of the organization where your services could be used on a short-term basis, perhaps a couple of hours or half a day. Be sure to get approval before pursuing activities outside the area for which you were hired. Your boss can be a tremendous asset to you as a reference for your next job, so you do not want to do anything to jeopardize your relationship.
Another idea to help make the most of your internship is asking to sit in on meetings that you would not normally be invited to. You can learn a lot by observing how people handle themselves in certain settings. You can tell your boss that you would not participate in the meeting, but would like very much to hear what is being discussed and see how the meeting is conducted.
Seek an Assessment
Ask your boss if she is planning to give you a performance appraisal before you leave the job. If not, ask her to give you one. It is helpful to learn what other people think of your work and what areas you can improve. You will leave a good impression that you care enough to ask how you did and what you can do to improve.
Another way to maximize your internship experience is to earn college credit while working. Prior to beginning the job, work with a professor to set up a work/study program in which you can write a paper and/or give a speech on your work experience and receive credit toward graduation.
Once the paper is completed, send it to your boss, the head of the organization and other people with whom you may have developed a relationship. They will be impressed by your dedication and commitment to your job.
You may also want to write a separate analysis of your experience just for your boss. Outline what you gained from the experience and how it could be improved for future interns. Your boss will appreciate it if you tell her how the organization can gain more productivity from its internship program.
Taking this kind of initiative shows a real maturity and understanding of business that can only help to ingratiate you with your boss.