Five Ways I’m Making the Most of My Internships
By: Taylor Allen
Every professor, career advisor and fellow student will tell you that you need at least one to land that coveted full-time job after graduation. Being experienced, building that resume and networking is the recipe for a job, arguably more than a stellar GPA (but don’t tell your professors I said that).
However, what isn’t emphasized enough is that not all internships are beneficial. Here are five ways to ensure you’re not wasting anyone’s time—yours or your employer’s.
1. Make Sure Your Presence Is Noticed
This doesn’t mean you stomp your feet, laugh obnoxiously or be loud at your desk. However, your work there should be impressive enough that your employer recognizes your work ethic and sense of responsibility. You should make small talk with people in your office. These people are the most knowledgeable about how your company works and can give you advice on how your boss likes things done.
Say hello and goodbye to everyone when you come in and leave the office. You never want someone you work with to still not know your name when you’ve been working there for over a month. Side note: people only hire interns they build relationships with, so use your internship to expand your professional network.
2. Ask to Learn Things Outside Your Job Description
When you learn from your internship and become competent in your assigned tasks, make a point to ask how people in other departments do their jobs. Most times, professionals are excited to help interns when and if they have the time. Not only does it show initiative, but it benefits you in the long run by giving you additional skills that can make you marketable when you apply for your first full-time job.
3. Be Honest About Your Intentions
You’re an intern. Your bosses and colleagues know you’re looking to eventually enter the workforce full time. There is absolutely no shame in asking any higher-up what the best next move is for you, what they think your strengths are and what opportunities there are inside or outside the company after your internship concludes. Most people want to help you, but closed mouths don’t get fed. People are willing to help you if you meet them halfway.
4. Don’t Be Exploited
I’m a senior now, and a dual major in Political Science and Journalism. I’ve had three internships and one fellowship in my time at Temple University and the College of Liberal Arts. None of them I regret because they taught me a valuable lesson. However, there was one in particular that taught me that some places, not all, treat the phrase “unpaid internship” as ”free and exploitable labor.” I know people have drilled the importance of experience into your head, but also recognize that some things, like skilled work, can and do require compensation.
If you find yourself putting more hours into an unpaid gig than your schoolwork, you might want to take a step back. You’re a student, yes, but your work is still worth something. Not all places are worth your time and dedication. Spreading yourself thin in the name of “exposure” or “experience” will deplete your physical and mental health, and you may not walk away with something tangible to show future employers.
One helpful tip: you can ease your workload by replacing college courses with internships for up to 12 credits. That really helped me out when I did the PA Capital Semester program.
5. Stay in touch
Your internship may have to end, but that doesn’t mean your connection should. You don’t have to be best friends with everyone you ever worked with, but it’s always a good idea to invite someone out for coffee or visit every once in a while. Obviously, this should never be forced. You’ve worked with your colleagues for a few months. During that time, I’m sure you’ve met one or two people whose company you genuinely enjoyed. That amicable relationship should always be there. Also, most career-worlds operate in small circles. Even if your internship’s management isn’t hiring at the moment, they definitely know someone who is and can refer you.
For more internship help, contact Liz Anselmo in Professional Development with any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.