Summer is here and for millions of college students, that means summer internship magic.
Internships are not only a great way for you to learn more about careers, companies, industries and future roles, but also a fantastic opportunity to have fun, make long-term relationships and hopefully earn a few dollars. While your experience is dependent on many variables (including your employer and direct supervisor), it is really up to you to make the best of it. Here are a seven helpful tips from college and campus recruiting experts that should improve your chance of a successful summer:
1) Set Goals (Big and Small, Achievable and Stretch)
In order to optimize your experience, come up with several goals you’d like to achieve by end of the summer. For some of you, you’ll emphasize getting an “offer” for full-time employment as a key goal. But keep in mind some of the other value propositions that an internship offers like building specific skills, meeting potential mentors, being part of a project or activity that demonstrates your knowledge and/or ability, building your career “friend” network, etc. Customize your list based on outcomes that you believe will help you going forward in college and leave you well equipped for future career endeavors. Make sure to write them down.
2) Do It, Document It and Reflect Upon It
Internships often feel like a mad dash to the end. Your 8 to 12 weeks will go by faster than free frozen yogurt day on a hot August night. Internship programs can be around the clock; you are busy during work hours and busy during social hours. The 24-hour frenzy can often lead to a foggy memory of what you have accomplished and learned. A journal can be a helpful recall aid. Find an easy way (mobile phone, computer, paper journal, etc.) to keep ongoing notes on what you see, hear and perceive. Who did you meet? What did you do? How did today make you feel toward the company, industry and future role? At the end of the day (or other time interval), re-read what you wrote and reflect on it again. Compare it to your goal’s list to identify where you are making progress and how you might need to modify your activities to meet other goals. Some of you might enjoy doing this with a peer to trade notes and gain additional perspective.
3) Pace Yourself
Use your time wisely. Review your goals to help in prioritizing your schedule. Know your own stamina and listen to your personal health cues. Too often interns go all out at the beginning and fade toward the finish line. Think about it as a bike race, steady with occasional bursts of energy is the better alternative. Get rest and eat healthy to feel refreshed and ready for maximum learning and interacting. One way to anticipate where to put your effort is to ask previous interns to provide insights and offer guidance.
4) Keep it Classy
Speaking of social activities, remember that you are always being “evaluated”. Company related social events (coffee outings, lunches, after-hours, weekend events, etc.) are great ways to connect and build work relationships, just make sure to keep it classy. This sounds trite, but we have all seen a few train wrecks in our day. These self-inflicted wounds are unnecessary and usually don’t end well. Don’t be that person. You’ll certainly want to get the 411 at the outset from a few of the current employees about work culture do’s and don’ts.
5) Find your Champion
Your work product by itself can’t speak about your potential, it needs a voice over when you aren’t there to speak for yourself. That’s what a Champion does for you. This is a person that is respected within the organization, who would advocate for you and your work. It could be your direct supervisor, an employee on the project team, the HR leader running the intern program, etc. Sometimes these develop naturally, but you don’t have a lot of time, so you’ll want to be proactive. During the first half of the internship identify a few folks who could become a Champion, then spend the last half nurturing that relationship and doing your best work. When you’ve enrolled them, make sure you tell them about your internship goals and long-term aspirations. These career relationships can last a lifetime and are often the way you get your first job offer.
6) Ask for Constant Feedback
Just like most experiences in life, understanding what you are doing well and what you need to work on is an important growth process. Be proactive and establish a regular cadence with your supervisor(s) on receiving formal feedback. They may have something in mind already, but it doesn’t hurt to provide your input on how often and in what manner the feedback is done. Find out how they’ll evaluate you at the end of the summer and integrate those criteria and your own personal goals to help outline your feedback conversation. I’d advocate that more often is better than less often, especially given the short timeframe you have to learn and/or prove yourself. You may also want to seek out other team members (current employees) to give you informal feedback as well, especially since HR will likely ask their input during their evaluation process.
7) Get Everyone’s Digits
Each person you meet in the summer, other interns, employees, recruiters, etc. is a relationship that could be mutually valuable. Make it a habit to collect names, cards, emails and numbers. Add/invite them to your career network and archive their business cards. This is a great objective to add to your goals. If you don’t have your own business card, spend a few dollars at a local print shop to make some. It’s old school, but the card is a cue for action (like adding you to their career network).
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