The middle of summer is upon us and many rising college Juniors and Seniors are working hard at their summer internship. It is the time to learn the value of being accountable and responsible to an employer and focus on the needs of someone else. This is the job that is supposed give you the real world experience you don’t get at school and set you up with a high chance of a job offer when you graduate. It has become the “must have” credential needed to compete with your college peers.
There is only one problem… you hate your internship.
The employer promised you certain opportunities and responsibilities that are just not happening. Maybe you are busy one day but have nothing to do the next and the boredom is excruciating. Or perhaps you are just filing papers or doing data entry that is monotonous and you feel like you are missing out on a chance to build more skills. You start to regret the whole thing. What should you do?
This is a common occurrence that happens with internships. You want to be learning a lot but companies are not always ready give you the experiences you expect. Some large companies have very structured and organized internship programs, but some companies view it as an opportunity to have inexpensive or free labor to do menial work. You are the only one who can make the most of it.
Here are a few tips to get the most out of your internship.
- Set goals with your manager. Many students are so happy to get an internship, they often forget or are too intimidated to ask about the exact work they will be doing. Assuming you have researched the company to get the job, be clear with your boss what you want to accomplish or learn over 8-10 weeks. They may have work they want you to complete such as data base cleanup or assisting with client research. However, if you want to observe what’s it is like to present to a large client or visit a distribution facility, it’s important to share your expectations at the beginning of your internship. Likewise, you should have a clear understanding of their expectations of you.
- Track your accomplishments. No matter how small your accomplishments, it’s important to track your work on a weekly basis. For example, if you worked at a customer support desk and handled 30 calls per day, it’s important to keep track of your volume. At the end of each week, summarize how many calls you handled, or how many clients you supported with specific requirements. This helps to not only share with your boss what you did for the week but also helps to summarize your work for your resume. You may be given more responsibility if they can see how efficient and effective you are.
- Network inside the company. A young woman who was an intern at a large advertising agency was promised all types of work but the hiring manager did not have any time for her and rarely gave her work to do. She asked others for work but did not get a great response. She was ready to quit until we talked about approaching the internship as one long networking event. Target 10 people in the company that you want to meet with and ask each of them to spend 20-30 minutes with you over lunch or coffee so you can lean about their job and share with them your skills as well. It’s also an opportunity to see if they need help and find ways to assist them. The more people that you network with and learn about inside the company, the more people that you can re-connect with for another internship or job when graduating. And don’t forget to connect to everyone you meet on LinkedIn.
Internships are not just about having something to put on your college resume. It’s about making it work for you and learning as much as you can…even if you have to initiate it yourself. To learn more about how to make the best of your Internship or First Job, learn more at Next Great Step.