Ending the school year without pre-made plans is like playing a Choose Your Own Adventure game. The options in front of you are endless—you could take a job, travel to other cities, volunteer at your local animal shelter—each choice or combination thereof leading you onto a different path.
One of your choices could be to take an internship. But why spend your time at a summer internship, making next to nothing, when you could be waiting tables and picking up $200 bucks in tips on a good weekend, or lounging on a beach in Aruba?
Internships come with a variety of benefits that could outweigh money earned from a summer job, or experiences gained from traveling (and getting a tan). According to Northwestern University graduate Beth Hering, who writes for career sites such as CareerBuilder.com and FlexJobs.com, these benefits include networking opportunities, mentorships, acquiring new skills, and “test driving” a career.
Furthermore, Vault’s 2016 annual internship survey inquired with over 6,000 former and current interns, and found that “approximately 75% of (or 3 out of 4) interns on average receive full-time job offers after interning. Which means that an internship is highly important with respect to landing a full-time job.”
So internships not only have exploratory and relationship building benefits, but they also open paths to full-time careers. If you’re about to start an internship, or you’re considering one down the road, keep the below tips in mind.
- Go in with a learning mindset. The purpose of an internship is to gain skills and explore the potential career path you’re interested in. You don’t have to start your internship with a solid set of analytical skills, or advanced experience with Tableu. You’ll gain skills like this during the internship. However, it is important to know which skills and experiences you want to have by the end of your internship.According to Otterbein University’s Career Center Director Ashley Strausser, “Having a sense of the skills and experiences you want to gain from an internship at the start allows you to be intentional in working towards your goals.” By keeping the skills you desire in mind, you’ll be able to work more mindfully on projects, and hone the skills you want to gain. You’ll also move closer to the goals you want to achieve.
- Take initiative. In other words, be proactive. When you’re done with your assigned work, look to see if there are other projects or initiatives that you could help out on. By doing this, you’ll broaden the range of your internship experiences and accomplishments—always a good thing. Business Insider content researchers and creators Hope Restle and Jacquelyn Smith state that, “Besides new knowledge and better business etiquette, you should be able to walk away with tangible evidence of what you’ve accomplished. For example: presentations you gave, articles you wrote, campaigns you worked on, or designs you created.”
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions. You may not know the procedure to analyze certain market trends, or act accordingly within the company culture, but these gaps in understanding don’t signify that you’re incompetent. In a new environment, it’s natural that you won’t understand every aspect of the company’s routine. In fact, most people go into an internship with a basic or big-picture understanding of a company, and work with employees to fit in and learn about company procedure, as well as the particular industry they’re in. Asking questions—and learning from what you’re told—is crucial to making the most of an internship.
- Establish meaningful connections. An internship is oftentimes framed in terms of how much work you’ll do, or what kind of projects you’ll get to work on. However, the interpersonal connections made at an internship are just as important. These relationships can be established with your manager, fellow interns, mentors, and really—anyone in the office, regardless of whether or not they are in your department. As University of the South’s Career Center Director Kim Heitzenrater advises, “Ask for their knowledge and advice; learn everything that they can teach you. Then, say thanks and keep in touch.”
- Make mistakes, and follow up. As an intern, you’re in a relatively low-stakes position. As previously stated, the employees you’ll be working with won’t expect you to know everything. Use your position to explore and push past your limits. Also, use it to expand your creative thinking abilities. Seek advice from those above you and around you. And most importantly, make sure that while no matter what mistakes you make, you are learning from them and attempting to continuously improve upon your performance.
Now that you have a few pre-internship tips, be sure to keep your goals and desires in mind as you move into the internship, and always maintain a can-do attitude. Aim to grow, aim to learn, and strive towards the best version of yourself.
Reporting by Liwen Xu