Let me tell you – There is nothing more frustrating than a passive intern. Show up. Complete tasks as assigned. Clock out. Check it off the list. This is no way to earn a job, let alone grow in skills and abilities.
Many interns look at internships as the necessary way to build their resumes in order to land a job. While this may be true – employers do indeed value practical experience – many interns miss two important considerations:
- This internship could be THE job. Act like it.
- If it’s not THE job, opportunity is not lost. It’s up to you to find value in the experience.
This internship could be THE job.
Are you learning new skills that apply to your career interests? Are you enjoying your work? Do you value the organization’s culture and leadership? Could you see yourself staying on after the internship is over? Perhaps this experience is not just a resume builder. Perhaps you have started THE job you’ve been looking for. If that’s the case:
- Make yourself indispensable. Turn out assignments, no matter what they are, that are high quality and on time.
- Articulate your strengths and interests to your manager in order to help her find opportunities that allow you to shine.
- Ask for help when you need it instead of spinning your wheels. Time is money so no manager wants to see a member of their team struggle to make progress on an assigned task or project.
- Seek regular feedback. Ask for a weekly touch base with your manager to discuss your work and professional skills. Regular feedback allows for course adjustments along the way.
- Listen. Then listen some more. You are in a trial period. You are in an extended job interview every day you’re an intern. Keep your enthusiasm in check. You have not earned the job, yet. Listen to understand so that you can meet organizational needs, appropriately.
Internships are expensive. A company must commit significant capital to recruit and pay their interns. But what is most costly, is the time put into training, coaching and teaching along the way. There is nothing that makes an employer happier, than determining all the work put into you will pay off in a successful placement. So remember: They’re rooting for you!
It’s up to you to find value in the experience.
So, the experience isn’t a slam dunk. Maybe it’s not even close. All is not lost with some creativity.
- Commit to the work in front of you. At first, you may have to fight the urge to re-direct your experience. Only once you’ve proven your commitment and delivered on assignments can you volunteer for additional projects that are more desirable.
- Find a person you can learn from and observe their actions and behaviors on the job
- Seek regular feedback. Ask for a weekly touch base with your manager to discuss your work and professional skills. Regular feedback allows for course adjustments along the way. You’re not imagining things, you’ve read this bullet two times now because feedback is that important.
- Observe. Evaluate roles and the organization itself to identify what is and is not a fit. Like the industry but not the organizational culture? Interested in another role after all? Looking for something more creative? More structured? Mismatches help you get a handle on what you really do want.
- Gain insight and perspective. Be a sponge, learning as much as you can about the company, industry, competition, etc. Doing so will give you a better understanding of how your specific assignments and projects contribute to the whole picture.
Even if the internship isn’t a perfect match, or far from it, commit to the experience with gusto. A strong reference could be one of the most important things that comes out of the experience.
No matter what your internship brings, appreciate it for the unique experience it is. You’ve been given special time to test the waters within different industries and positions. There will always be something to learn – It’s just up to you to find it.
Did you know internships aren’t just for college students anymore? Learn more about “Returnships” via the Harvard Business Review.