April is National Internship Awareness Month, a great time for students to apply for summer internships and get on-the-job training before they graduate. Internships are available for all types of students and job seekers. They provide a real-world work experience for a set short period of time. Some may lead to future full-time positions or valuable referrals for future employment. Sometimes called work-based experiences, internships are paid or unpaid positions at businesses and organizations that provide candidates with the opportunity to gain work experience in a real industry setting. Work-based experiences may also be called apprenticeships or externships.
Use these tips to get the most out of your internship or work-based experience.
1. Communicate Your Goals
As early as the interview process, let the hiring manager know why you’re applying for the internship and how you hope your internship experience will impact your professional journey. Explain what type of full-time job you plan on applying for in the future and what kinds of tasks and projects you’d enjoy working on during the internship.
Also, make sure you bring up your current experience and what you’ve learned and worked on so far in school. For example, say you’re planning to intern at a radio station and are studying broadcast journalism. If you have your own radio show at your university, make sure you let your internship employer know that. Instead of having you work solely behind-the-scenes, maybe you’ll get the opportunity to do some on-air work.
Be open about interesting classes or projects you’ve worked on that relate to the industry your internship is in. There may be connections and opportunities available at your internship that your unique experience lends itself to.
Also, research the job descriptions of positions you’re interested in post-school. Those will give you a good idea of the skills and experience that you’ll need. Mention those to your internship employer so they can help you gain that specific experience that you can add to your resume.
2. Be Professional
A 2020 report by the “Houston Chronicle” revealed some of the most important qualities managers look for in employees when considering job applicants. Beyond quantitative skills and knowledge, soft skills also have value because they affect workplace culture and team performance. The report recommends to hone skills like:
- Dependable work performance, including being present during work hours and completing assignments on time or earlier
- Enthusiasm and diligence
- Respect and listening
- Honesty and ethics
- Professionalism and courtesy
- Adaptability and accountability
- Teamwork, resourcefulness and self-directedness
Interns may be among the least experienced workers in the office, but you can earn the respect of others by approaching your role professionally. Bring enthusiasm and a sense of gratitude to your work. Be positive and respectful in all your workplace interactions. Aim to add value to your team however you can.
3. Be an active learner
Your internship prepares you for what it’d be like to work full-time in that work environment. The experience you gain prepares you for a job in that industry and can help you cultivate a meaningful career. In some cases, your internship experience could help you stand out as a candidate and secure a job over your competition.
Make every moment count during your internship. Seek out learning opportunities like the following.
Volunteer for tasks
If there’s a task that you’re unfamiliar with that someone needs to complete, volunteer to take it on. You’ll show initiative, help out your team members and gain experience by working on something new.
Train on technology
If you have the opportunity to use software or hardware you’re unfamiliar with, take advantage of that training. You can add those technical skills to your resume and profile on LinkedIn, the professional social network where you can list your job experience and connect with other professionals in your industry. Having specific technical skills can help you get ahead if future jobs use the same types of systems.
Attend learning and development sessions
Your employer may offer training and development opportunities, ranging from lunch and learns to more formal training during work hours. Attend whatever you can at work. If there are industry conferences in town, ask about the possibility of attending those, too.
Go out of your comfort zone
During your internship, you may discover a new area of work that interests you. Ask about opportunities to shadow someone new for a day or get task assignments you hadn’t originally thought of when you applied.
Try to learn how the whole organization operates and how various teams impact organizational goals. You might learn that there’s a different part of the industry you’re interested in. You’ll also gain insights into how to work with teams across an organization when you apply for full-time positions.
It can be helpful to track what you’re learning during your internship, so you collect all your new skills that you can add to a resume and LinkedIn profile. You might be learning new skills every day. Write down a daily recap during your internship so you can reflect on and organize your experience for future employers.
4. Build Relationships
Networking is so important for jobs across any industry. As a 2021 report by “Forbes” stated, as many as 80% of jobs are filled through networking.
It’s important to cultivate a strong professional network because:
- You’ll be at top of mind when positions you’re a fit for are open.
- Your network can provide recommendations for you as a job candidate.
- You can seek out work advice from people you trust when you need it.
- When you’re looking for a job, you can alert your network, who can help you in your search by reaching out to their contacts.
At your internship, seek out a career mentor or several whom you can regularly connect with. Let them know the type of work you’re doing and what you’re enjoying about it. Ask them about their career journeys and any advice they’d share with you. Thank them for sharing their expertise with you. If you want, let them know you’d like to keep in touch with them post-internship. Make plans to continue the relationship.
Your internship will hopefully provide meaningful work experience. But the relationships you build during your internship can be just as valuable. Look for opportunities to grab coffee or get lunch with coworkers you admire and want to build relationships with.
Looking for an Internship? Use Pipeline AZ
If you’re interested in an internship or work-based experience, Pipeline AZ is an Arizona careers platform that can help you plan your career pathway. Search now to find open relevant, open positions.