Many of you will have just started or be starting your summer internships or work experience soon. Internships are a great way of building your CV, finding out about different areas of work and if it suits you and, in certain sectors and professions, are used by recruiters as a talent pipeline. So an internship is about much more than simply having the experience listed on your CV.
But how do you get the most out of the experience? For many of you it will be your first foray into the world of graduate level work. It will no doubt throw up a lot of questions and firsts such as: How should I address people? To what extent will I be expected to attend social events? Is it OK to say no? Here we share some top tips for how to make the most of your work experience this summer:
- Do some research – you’ll have done some in preparation for the interview but any further research you can do in advance of your internship will help you feel more prepared and confident when you start work.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions – if there’s something you’re unsure of, or if you’d like know more about how things are done, ask colleagues for help. Often you’ll be assigned a mentor who’ll be happy to help with any questions. The internship is an excellent learning opportunity so ask lots of questions and absorb as much information as you can.
- Demonstrate enthusiasm – ensure you approach the work you are being asked to do with positivity and enthusiasm. You may find yourself with some free time so ask busier colleagues if there’s anything you can help with and be proactive in seeking out additional learning opportunities.
- Show off your skills – think about the key skills which you should be displaying. For instance, make sure you manage your time efficiently, especially if you’re being asked to complete multiple tasks/projects. Take an active part in team meetings and discussions to demonstrate your ability to work in a team and don’t be afraid to vocalise your ideas and suggestions.
- Be flexible and have a can-do attitude – it’s important to be a team player and to help others out and this will be viewed positively. However don’t get distracted so you can’t deliver on your own responsibilities. Keep your own goals in mind. If you do find at any point you’re getting a bit behind think about things you might be able to do outside the office environment to catch up if you need to.
- Be professional – many employers will use feedback from your internship when deciding whether to offer you a permanent position so you need to make a good impression. Observe the culture of the organisation, especially around things such as office dress code and taking personal calls in the office. Social media is probably best avoided and certainly never say anything negative about your employer on Facebook etc.
- Build a network – utilise your networking skills to connect with different people within the organisation and attend any social events which may be organised. Use this opportunity to find out more about the organisation and about the different career paths and opportunities which may be available to graduates. They may also be useful contacts for the future so it’s a good idea to connect with them on LinkedIn and stay in touch after the internship has finished.
- Ask for feedback – an internship is an excellent learning opportunity so ask your manager(s) for feedback on your performance so that you can check you are meeting their expectations during the internship itself. This will also help you be more aware of your own strengths and weaknesses.
- Make notes – take a note of everything you’re doing and learning so you have a record of your internship. You can then update your CV with all the new skills and experience you’ve gained whilst it’s still fresh in your mind, and refer to the notes prior to future interviews.
We hope you enjoy your internship, feel challenged and learn plenty about yourself and your career goals along the way. Do remember though that internships don’t always work out the way you want, so if for whatever reason it doesn’t think what you have learnt from it. What might it be telling you about your skills and career interests? You are, after all, at the beginning of your career journey and there are plenty of alternatives open to you – good luck!