4 Tips for a Successful Internship
College internships are a great way to get your feet wet in your chosen field, especially if you are considering a career in education, medicine or the law. What you see on television is often very different from reality, so it’s better to find out early in your college journey that you’re not quite cut out to be a forensic scientist or an elementary school teacher. It would be devastating to spend thousands on a degree only to find out you hate the actual day-to-day duties that come with your chosen field. Internships allow you to get an up-close look, enabling you to weigh the pros and cons of your degree path. You’ll also have the opportunity to gain hands-on experience and network, which definitely helps after graduation. Although many internships are unpaid, the experience can be priceless. Here are four tips to ensure you get the most out of your upcoming college internship.
1. Be Professional
Regardless if you have a paid or unpaid internship, treat it like a regular job. Be sure to dress appropriately and arrive on time. Do not take extended breaks or ask to leave early, unless you have an emergency. Follow the office protocols, including any guidelines regarding the use of social media. Leave your phone in your desk to avoid the urge to text or call your friends on company time. Remember, this could be your audition for a future position, so make a good impression!
2. Research Your Company
If you really want to impress, take time to research the company where you will be interning. Peruse the website, paying close attention to the ‘media’ or ‘news’ sections, for any recent announcements and know who’s who among management. It may even help to check out your future supervisor’s LinkedIn profile. If there’s a corporate annual report available, take the time to review it, as well. It’s also helpful to know about partnerships and other companies that may be under the umbrella of the organization. You never know when this type of information will come in handy.
3. Ask for Help
Remember this phrase when interning, ‘There’s no such thing as a dumb question.’ There is, however, a real possibility that you will do something dumb, if you fail to ask for help or clarification. You are in college for a reason – to learn. Don’t go into your internship expecting that you will know all the answers. In fact, your supervisor will appreciate that you take the time to ask questions and do things right. A mistake in class usually only affects you, but an error at your internship could prove to be very costly. Another thing to remember is to speak up if you have made an error or you are uncomfortable performing a task that is asked of you. Just be sure to address the issue privately with your immediate supervisor and not publicly with the entire office.
4. Leave on a Positive Note
As you near the end of your internship, ask your supervisor for feedback, and if appropriate, a letter of recommendation; his/her insights will help you in future situations and positions. It’s also a good idea to express your gratitude for the opportunity by giving a small token or hand-written letter to those who have helped you during the internship. Be sure to follow up in a few weeks and let them know how you are doing, and thank them again for their assistance. The connections may come in handy when you are looking for a job after college.
Even if you discover that your chosen career path is not right for you, the experience will help you grow and learn more about yourself. One thing to always keep in mind is that your actions will affect other students within your program, too. If you are continually late for your scheduled shifts or behave poorly in the workplace, the company may decide to terminate its relationship with the college, which may make it difficult for future students to find an internship. Taking on interns typically means more work for the host company and supervisors, so be respectful of their time by showing up to work with a positive attitude and plenty of energy.