Whether you’ve just landed an exciting internship for next year or you’re right in the middle of an internship at your dream agency, it’s up to you to get the most out of your experience. You decide what you take away from it, so check out these guidelines on how to design your internship to help you grow as an individual, your way.
Make a Plan
It’s a good idea to have some good goals in mind before your internship even starts. You’ll be moving pretty fast once your internship gets underway, and without some clear goals going in, pretty soon you’ll be at the end of your internship term without much in the way of concrete personal achievement.
What would you like to accomplish? What skills would you like to learn or improve? Get as specific as you can, as early as you can, and meet each new day of your internship with them in mind.
Once you have nailed down some specific goals, decide how you’re going to tackle them, and share your plan with your coworkers. They’ll be happy to get you started and help you along the way.
It’s okay to not know everything, and nobody is expecting you to. If you hear a technical term you’re not familiar with, don’t just nod and smile; ask a question. When you’re working, try to reach a good balance of exploring possible solutions yourself and knowing when to ask questions.
When asking questions, make sure you’re respectful of your coworkers’ time. They’re busy as well, so whenever possible, come prepared with potential solutions to your problem.
Finally, don’t ask the same question multiple times. It’s okay to ask for clarification, but if you find yourself coming back a third time, consider taking more detailed notes of the initial responses you get.
Explore Other Projects
It’s easy to get caught up in the bubble of your project, but your company has much more to offer. Get lunch with some other interns and find out what they’re working on, what problems they’re facing, etc. Projects often face similar challenges, and simply talking about another project over lunch could lead to a solution.
This sort of information sharing fosters a great sense of community, and can break down complex problems. At the very least, you’ll learn about what’s happening around you and network with your peers at the same time.
Step Up and Stand Out
Stand out from the crowd by taking on a little extra responsibility. Spend some extra time on a project feature or step up when you can be a leader. Notice somewhere your workplace is lacking? Ask if you can take charge on an internal project and fill those holes.
If you can manage to bring real value to your company above what’s expected, they’ll notice. At many companies, an internship is like an extended interview, and standing out from the crowd will increase your chances of getting that coveted return offer.
Take Note of Culture
If you’re looking to stay at your company past your internship, take note of the culture around you. You’re trying on the company just as much as they’re trying on you, so make sure that you enjoy your work environment and consider your work-life balance.
Do you like how you interact with your superiors? Does your workplace foster a sense of mutual respect? What is your least favorite thing about your job?
Determine if what you’ve experienced so far is in line with your work expectations. Now is the best time to decide if you may be looking for something different.
Come next interview season, you probably won’t remember what you did at your internship, and if you do, you definitely won’t remember how to talk about it very well.
Keep a document outlining everything you’ve done this summer. What technologies did you use? What interpersonal skills did you learn? How did you overcome unexpected hurdles?
At the time it may seem redundant to write everything down, but you’ll thank yourself when you read your records later.
Above all, your company is investing in you. If they’re doing it right, they want you to learn, grow, and benefit from your internship. Be a sponge; soak up every piece of knowledge and information you can.
Insist on curiosity and strive to learn more than the knowledge required for your project: learn interpersonal skills, time management, and general life advice from your elders. Learn how to take criticism and run with it, and learn how to grow as a person.
You’re surrounded by people with more experience than you who want to pass it on. Help them help you!
Your internship is a set-up for success. It’s up to you to decide how much.