Becoming an intern is considered a near-necessity in certain fields to gain useful experience and eventually be considered for full-time job positions at desirable companies all over the world. Whether paid or unpaid, an internship is a great way of establishing skills for moving into specialist work such as PR/ Social Media Assistant, Financial Analyst and Web Technician (to give a few choice examples), with the potential opportunity to work with other like-minded interns. But there are bound to be those who are just about to start an internship, or are working through one right now, who need some help, some guidance on what to expect and do to get the most out of their work experience and develop their skill sets. Here are our 5 ways to make the most out of your internship!
Ask Questions (the More, the Merrier)
One of the main purposes of being an intern is to learn transferable skills in your chosen field; if you don’t ask people any questions, then surely you are missing golden opportunities! Most bosses and co-workers are often more than willing to give guidance to new interns; hence, it is okay to ask questions all the time. Treat this experience like school; you are working to increase your knowledge in certain areas and those around you are there to help you achieve your best. If you are for whatever reason not very comfortable asking your boss for advice/ guidance, find a fellow co-worker (or even intern) that you have a good relationship with and talk to them; they will be more than happy to help you out.
Act Professional/ Like a Full-time Employee
Even if you are on a unpaid internship, always try and act as professionally as possible; you are there to develop your skills whilst learning how an industry operates and there is no better way of this than treating this experience as if you are already on an employer’s pay roll. Employers take notice when interns try and “put in” impressive work hours and try to add value to their company, with job opportunities potentially arising if they are seen to be good workers. Additionally, even if a company isn’t in a position to offer you a permanent job, it is evidently better to be someone they are sad to see go rather than happy to get rid of at the end of your internship placement. Always turn up to work positive, ready to learn and eager to fit in!
Apply for Smaller Companies as well as Big
Many prospective interns instinctively gravitate towards big-brand or “cool” companies first, given that the applicant may know the company better and want to impress on a CV or resume by featuring a company name. However, it may actually be better working with a small or independent employer first; this way, there is more likely-hood of learning skills one-on-one with individuals and even your boss, skills which in a bigger company would be almost impossible to learn from those higher up the “chain of command”. These less-known names may not look as good on your CV/ resume but the skills gained from working in a start-up company (for instance) more than makes up for this, with you hopefully picking up a greater range of transferable skills from your internship experience.
Get to Know Your Colleagues and Socialise
Remember to take up every opportunity to connect with your co-workers and boss; think of it as expanding your work network as well, a must for anyone looking to advance in their chosen career field! Employers will appreciate a sociable intern, but don’t forget to actually put in the work hours as well; otherwise, it might seem like you are “skiving” and trying to avoid graft. Try and meet up with them outside of work and really try to bond, even if you are only doing a short-term internship for their company. This also provides an excellent opportunity to develop your working skills and learning from colleagues that you enjoy being with will make you focus more and take on board their impetus.
Don’t Worry if You Don’t Like Your Internship
Internships do not always symbolise a fast-track into the world of work for everyone, but that’s okay! Always view an internship as a positive experience; treat it as an opportunity to find out whether a certain career path is right for you. If not, then maybe start exploring other avenues where you might feel more at home. Remember, being an intern is not the same as being a full-time employee; if you thoroughly hate your time at an internship and feel you are being exploited for free work only, don’t feel obliged to stay! All that matters is that you have tried your best to learn new skills, add value to a company and integrate yourself fully with your fellow work staff; don’t be afraid to branch out and try something different.
George is a 22-year-old graduate from Cardiff University, having studied Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies, where he wrote news articles and interest pieces for various student magazines. He currently lives just outside of Birmingham, playing records and DJing in his spare time.