If you are a high school student, in college or are a recent graduate, one of the most profitable things you can do to explore your career options, gain some ground-floor experience and build your resume is an internship. Interning can come in all different forms: paid and unpaid, short-term and long-term. Often internships are offered as “tryouts” by employers and they become ramps to full-time employment once you graduate and enter the workforce.
If you are in a quandary about how to find an internship, you might go to specific employers’ websites to see if they list internship applications to anything of interest to you. Alternatively, you can go to sites that amalgamate internships from a given field. For example, if you were interested in a career doing cancer research, you could check out the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Intramural Training & Education, where you’ll see internships offered from a great many places. Lastly, a simple search for “summer internship” on Google, Indeed, Glassdoor or LinkedIn will produce a myriad of possibilities for further investigation.
When you are involved in an internship, you should be thinking about it on multiple levels. It isn’t just about whatever tasks you are given on a day-to-day basis!
Remember that this is a time for you to gain skills, learn about the workplace and develop a strong reputation that will serve you well in the future. Here are some key things to focus on when you are doing an internship.
Make connections. If your company or organization doesn’t give you a business card, get one made up yourself and include your address and contact information. Exchange your card with co-workers, and make sure to add them to your LinkedIn network. You never know when you might want to contact them, even years from now.
Play to your weaknesses. People commonly will tell you to play to your strengths, i.e. do what you are good at doing. But choosing an internship that will enable you to turn a weakness into a strength can be even more valuable. As you develop more identifiable skills, you become a more valuable and sought-after employee. Moreover, as you learn about more things you’ll have a greater understanding of what you really may want to specialize in later.
Put in the hours. Even if you aren’t paid, treat the internship as seriously as if you were making a six-figure income from it. Develop a reputation for never being late to work or to a meeting, arrive before your boss and don’t leave until the tasks you are working on are completed. When you develop a strong work ethic at the beginning of your career it will serve you well later!
Show your stuff. An internship is a great time to explore and learn new things. But chances are, you might know more about computers or something else that mid-career workers haven’t caught on to yet. Treat each day as an opportunity for you to be of help to others around you, to demonstrate the skills and knowledge you have by doing a great job at whatever your job might be. Remember to always pull your weight, and then some!
Soak up knowledge. This is the time in your life to listen and be extremely mindful of what is going on around you. By all means, learn as much as you can about the goods or services your company or organization produces or markets to others.
Observe how others succeed. Learn the pecking order in your workplace. Quietly observe what others do, how they do it, what works and what doesn’t work so well. Pay attention to why some people are respected more than others, and mimic those whose leadership and knowledge make the place tick!