10 Tips to Love Your Internship
I know many of you out there are searching for internships and may find it to be very frustrating! I have completed around 10 internships/jobs in the last 4 years, and I will admit some have been FAR more enjoyable than others. I have my Top 10 lessons learned when trying to find an internship you will actually enjoy!
Don't choose the internship based on the hourly rate or if it is paid at all! I have experienced that some of my unpaid internships have proven to be the most valuable. They tend to let you tag along to more meetings, explain more things, and let you be involved in projects you would not have otherwise been able to if you were on their payroll. Professionals love to teach students, and they will be more inclined to have you just observe them if they do not feel like they need to directly benefit from your time in the office. I have attended executive planning meetings, participated in TV shoots, created my own process improvement study, and have assisted in facilitating training for other associates all in my unpaid positions. Never judge an internship by the pay grade!
Tell them what you are expecting to learn! If you do not let them know your expectations, what you are intersted in, or what you would like to experience, they will never know! They want to build great future employees, and you want to learn as much as possible; take advantage of it!
Try to never eat lunch alone! Informal relationships are equally important in the workplace as formal professional relationships. The easiest way to get to know those around you, how they got where they are today, and feedback that can help you perform better in the department is to eat lunch with people! No one want to sit silently in the break room alone, so take advantage of that tim!
Ask questions! It is always better to clarify anything you are not sure of by asking questions. Employers don't expect you to know everything, but they do expect you to let them know when you don't! Companies want trainable employees, not necessarily someone who knows everything from the get-go!
Always arrive on time, and looking well put-together! Older employees may already form stereotypes of interns based on past experience. Show the office that you know how to be professional and efficient.
Learn everyone's names! It makes you feel immensely more comfortable in the office, you build more informal relationships, and they are more likely to remember you when you graduate and are searching for a job!
Don't let location limit you! I am from southern Indiana One of my favorite internships was with a 200 physician clinic over in Des Moines, Iowa! It also adds a little bit extra to your resume to see that you were willing to travel to learn more!
Intern at companies you would potentially like to work at. I spent several months in an intersnship at a small clinic entering information into their electronic medical record system. I was not interesed in workin in this setting, or field, or doing this work. No experience is bad experience, but I could have found a more valuable use for my time!
Don't feel limited by the interships you find online/on joblink/on Linkedin. My Top 3 favorite internships were a result of me sending an email and asking if I could participate in a project, engage in some job shadowing, or help with upcoming events. Many companies love interns! They are able to spread their knowledge, develop future employees, and have a little extra help at low or no cost! It's a win-win!
Don't meet your minimums and stop! Always try to be gaining real experience throughout college. Start early! There is no reason why you cannot start interning your freshman year! You will have more opportunity to learn, you will understand your course material more completely, start building your network early, beef up your resume, and begin to see what you are TRULY intersted in for a future career.
Try to mix it up! I have interned at a critical access hospital, opthamologist clinic, orthopedic clinic, civil engineering firm, human resources and development department, Lean resources department, strategic planning and marketing, 200 physicial multi-specialty clinic, and I have gained valuable knowledge from them all! Having a wide knowledge base is extremely valuable at a young age. Don't get stuck in a rut at the same internship! There is no guarantee they will have a position when you graduate. As the saying goes, "Don't stick your eggs all in one basket."
I hope you are able to follow these tips early and find that dream internship! Career experience is valuable, take your internships seriously! They will help build you into a well-rounded employee.