For many students, the internship is a rite of passage. Many workplaces now like to see that students have some practical experience, on top of the knowledge they learn in the classroom. An internship is one way that students can gain that experience. Many programs now expect that students will complete at least three credit hours in an internship.
Even though many internships are unpaid, students can receive good value from these programs. As you prepare for an internship, consider what you can learn, and plan out how you can make the most of your internship as a way to get access to better opportunities in the future.
While the ideal situation is receiving some pay and college credit, you might not be able to land a paid internship — especially in the current economy. If you can’t get paid, at least make sure that you receive college credit.
Find out what paperwork needs to be turned in so that you receive your credit; you will probably need your supervisor to sign off on your internship efforts. When I was in college, I completed an internship one summer. I was fortunate enough that it involved travel (which the company paid for) and college credit. I had a great time, and I had credits to put toward graduation.
One of the best ways to take advantage of your internship is to seize networking opportunities. This is your chance to make connections in your desired career field. Keep in touch with your fellow interns, your supervisors, and regular employees. Later on, you might be able to access work opportunities and other chances for career advancement if you take the time to network now.
Your internship can also provide you with the chance to meet a mentor. Your new mentor can probably help you figure out how to forge stronger connections, while providing you with you with practical tips and ideas for getting ahead. Don’t spurn anyone’s help.
Use your internship as a time to make connections that can help you out later in your career, whether you are looking for a tip on a job opening, or whether you need a letter of recommendations.
Learn Whatever You Can
The point of an internship is to gain hands-on experience. You have a chance to learn whatever you can. You should take advantage of the opportunity to learn about your career field. When you have the chance, learn how things work in your industry.
This is especially important if you aren’t being paid. Acquiring marketable skills is one of the best ways to boost your career prospects later. Use the time as an intern to hone new skills, learn new things, and practice in the real world. Many interns just see their time as something to endure; you will get more out of your internship if you learn as much as possible.
Impress Those Around You
Some companies actually make new hires from among their interns. If you show that you have what it takes, and you impress those around you, it’s possible that your internship could turn into a job offer.
Interns sometimes get a bad rap for being lazy. There is some truth to this. Some interns are lazy. However, you shouldn’t be one of these. This is a chance for you to show your true quality, and prove your capability. If you show that you are competent, there is a better chance that you will be hired on for a regular job at the end of your internship.
Even if you don’t get a job offer, it’s a good idea to work hard, and do your best at an internship. If you make a favorable impression, you will be able to get a good reference, which can be valuable in finding a job.
Don’t Forget to Help Others
Remember that, often, “what goes around comes around.” Even as you accept help from others, don’t forget to provide assistance to others. While you might not be able to do much until you have learned more, you should still plan to help others later on. Offer to be a mentor. Remember that you are part of someone else’s network, and they probably need the help.
When you remember to help others, you enrich your own life, and forge stronger networking ties.