By Amanda Barrell
For many college students, summer internships are essential building blocks on the road to “the real world”. Whether you’re a sophomore trying to discern what you’d like to do for a major or career, or you’re a senior looking to score a sweet job after graduation, an internship can provide valuable experiences and skills if you have the right perspective going into it.
Pursue a worthwhile commitment
So you’re ready to move up from working at your childhood summer camp? Great. If you have an idea of what you’d like to do, that’s even better. If not, use your major as a guide. If you’re still unsure about your major, and especially if you’re an underclassman, don’t stress too much. Think about what you’re passionate about, whether it’s the environment, local politics, or photography. Once you have that, start exploring your options. Check out job sites like Snagajob and Coolworks.com or visit your school’s Career Services office. Not only can the employees there help you find a job, but they can also help critique your resume and prepare you for those intimidating interviews.
Be open-minded. You might not think that working at your uncle’s general store in Estes Park could be beneficial to your long-term goals of working for a Fortune 500 company, but you might learn about money management, customer service, and teamwork, all skills which are admirable to future employers.
Talk to past/current interns & coworkers—in other words, network!
Now that you’ve found that sweet internship, it’s important to make connections. By talking to previous interns who have worked for that same company, or even those who have previously worked in your position, you can gain insight about the work you’ll be assigned, the office environment, and even your boss.
Don’t forget to neglect your coworkers either. Briefly catching up about your long weekends over a cup of coffee in the lunchroom can help encourage teamwork when you’re asked to work together later. When the time comes for you to leave your internship, you might also count on those coworkers to give you a good recommendation for future jobs.
Position yourself strategically
While we’re not saying you have to be everyone’s best friend, take some time to observe your office and your coworkers. Find out who’s working on big projects and volunteer your help if you can, even if it’s just putting together booklets or setting up for a meeting. Not only will coworkers appreciate your help, but they’ll also see you as someone who takes the initiative. Just don’t forget to complete your own work and get your boss’ permission first before taking on any additional projects.
Use your time well
Unless you are the social media coordinator at your summer job or internship, you should not be spending all of your time at work on sites like Facebook, Twitter, etc. No matter what your company’s social media policy is, it’s still a good idea to stay focused on other work-related tasks and projects. If you’re bored, ask your supervisor if there are any other additional assignments you can get started on, or if they don’t have anything for you, ask your coworkers. In most situations, there will almost always be people in need of an extra pair of hands.
Communication is one of those essential skills in any line of work. Whether you’re suggesting a new idea or providing feedback about your internship at the end of your summer, speak up! Most companies will appreciate the feedback, especially if it helps make the program better for future interns and employees.
What skills have you found help you make the most from your internship?