Many of you will have started or be about to start a summer placement or internship. Here we focus on how to get the most out of your work experience to ensure you can convert it into a full-time role.
1. Pick the right opportunity
Make sure you know why you’re doing an internship and what you want to achieve. While the answer to this might be pretty simple if you’ve bagged a commercial law Vacation Scheme, many placements are more fluid and are not part of such a strict pipeline.
There is often scope to define your own internship opportunity within a company you particularly like, in which case it is vital to know what you want. Do you want to acquire a particular set of skills, experiences or contacts? If the internship isn’t going to satisfy any of that, don’t waste your
2. Proactivity is the most valuable thing
This sounds obvious but don’t just turn up on day one and drift around the company for four weeks. Write down on a note 'be proactive' and stick it to your computer so that you never forget.
Practically, this involves doing extra tasks you haven’t been set - from tidying the office, suggesting cool new things for the company’s blog or social media channels, or looking to improve a company process. You have an outsider’s perspective and a fresh eye which are actually valuable traits unique to interns - use them.
3. Use your vocal chords
Employers are not mind readers and won’t always know if you feel you are being stretched, challenged or overwhelmed. It can take a while for them to find you work which is at your level and everyone learns at different rates. Therefore always communicate about how you are coping with your workload and whether you can take on more responsibility.
However if you are struggling, don’t just hoist up a white flag and complain - try to phrase it to your manager in such a way that they understand you are trying your best, you just need a few more tools or tips to help you get everything done. Likewise, be very sure you’ve completed an apparently tedious task to a high standard, nothing will set you back more on your quest for responsibility if you rush a boring task and man the Failboat of Incompetency past the manager.
This is all part of a new trend for 'managing upwards' - the skill behind this involves solving problems for your bosses, not just enacting the solution the bosses have eventually decided on. This doesn’t mean popping into the CEO’s office every five minutes to suggest a new method of waste paper disposal; it can be as simple as googling an answer, rather than bothering your superiors over it and thereby saving five minutes of their time.
4. Build your network
There is a ton of advice on how to do this, ranging from taking your time thinking of good questions so you’re not wasting a mentor’s time, to sending thank you notes at the end of your internship. But my advice is to be very careful on whom you include in your network. Look at the people you are working with and decide if you would one day like their job. If it’s a yes, build a rapport.
In an internship it is more important to focus on networking with the experienced, permanent employees, rather than fellow interns. This is because it is easier to stay in touch with your peers via social media and you will have built a rapport from working alongside them. It is more difficult to build a meaningful contact with someone older than you and this then requires more effort.
Offer to buy an experienced colleague coffee, or something stronger, in order to pick their brains. People love to talk about themselves and will extend these feelings to anyone who offers them free drinks and is genuinely interested in what they have to say.
5. Last but not least...
Remember every internship is actually an extended job interview. Turn up five minutes early, dress like your superiors, be enthusiastic about the company and its work and show them your unique assets so they’ll want you back.
Ready to find the right internship for you? Click here.