Securing an internship takes a fair share of hard work and planning — when you earn the position, take the time to celebrate your accomplishment. The months ahead are full of opportunity.
In addition to the soft and hard skills you’ll learn on the job, there is a possibility you could receive a job offer. In fact, a recent survey found that 43.5% of interns received a job offer at the end of their internship. Below, you’ll find guidelines on how to make the most of your internship and leave a great impression.
1. Set clear goals for the internship
In any job, it’s essential to know what’s expected of you, and your internship won’t be any different. By setting specific goals with your employer, you’ll gain structure and meaning for your internship while also avoiding unnecessary frustration or conflict.
Here are some examples of goals and expectations you may want to discuss:
- The specific skills you want to work on
- The specific areas or projects your employer needs help with
- How you’ll seek guidance or ask questions when needed
- Where to find resources and answers on your own when possible
- How your employer will deliver feedback on your performance
- How to communicate about delays or adjust timelines on an assignment if needed
2. Always follow through
Whenever you are assigned or agree to complete a task, always follow through. If you feel you can’t deliver on your promises, communicate that to your supervisor. Explain why and what your next steps will be. Learning how to prioritize and delegate shared responsibilities can help avoid situations where you may underdeliver.
Over time, by successfully completing your assigned and accepted tasks, you will steadily gain a reputation for being dependable.
3. Own mistakes and fix them
During your internship you may make mistakes, and that’s ok. Making mistakes is part of the learning curve. They key is to accept responsibility when things don’t go as planned. Taking ownership and articulating possible solutions will result in faster resolution and enable others to see you as a leader.
A possible scenario could be:
- You have missed a deadline for an important project.
A solution could be:
- First, you should communicate to your supervisor that you are aware you missed the deadline. Provide reasons without making excuses. For example: “I underestimated how much time it would take for me to complete this task, and I take responsibility for that.”
- Next, provide solutions as to how you will fix the problem. For example: “I’ve been able to re-prioritize my other tasks and will be able to complete this by the end of the day.”
- Then, take the necessary steps to resolve the issue.
4. Make new connections
Your internship is a valuable opportunity to start networking. After all, the people you meet in this setting could become friends, professional contacts and possible mentors for years to come.
Striking up a conversation with strangers isn’t easy for everyone but there are simple icebreakers that can get you started. Here are some examples:.
- Did you have an internship when you first started your career? What was one of the most important things you learned?
- What’s something you believed earlier in your career but think about differently now?
- What’s the best piece of advice you received, or wish you’d received, at the outset of your career?
- What skills do you think will be most relevant in this field over the next decade?
5. Identify a mentor
A mentor is someone who can guide you through your internship and be a bridge to professional networks and learning opportunities. They won’t give you a complete roadmap to success but rather, can serve as a trusted source of feedback and information.
In some internship settings, you may be assigned a mentor. In others, you may have to identify one for yourself. In these cases, it’s easiest to plainly ask someone to be your mentor with the lines, “I’m eager to learn as much as possible over the course of my internship. Your input would be greatly appreciated. Would you be able to serve as a mentor during this time?”
You’ll want to select someone who you admire and has the skills and traits you want to develop. Maybe there is someone with a job title you would one day like to hold. If they accept, you can set up regular, short meetings with them to catch up and ask questions. Note: Being a mentor does require their time and effort, so if they decline, back out gracefully. You may consider asking if they have recommendations for another mentor.
6. Practice collaborating with others
A vital skill that will serve you in any profession, collaborating well means defining expectations, actively listening and communicating clearly. During your internship, seek out opportunities to practice collaboration. Here are some examples of how to go about that:
- Whether you’re working solo or in a group, define the requirements of your project. Will you need input or assistance from anyone else? Determining that upfront and giving notice to others as soon as possible will make it easier to get the resources you need.
- When you hold a meeting, prepare by sharing an agenda. If you’re attending a meeting without an agenda, contact the organizer ahead of time and ask if there’s anything you can do to prepare.
- Respect everyone’s time by beginning and ending the meeting on schedule.
7. Seek out growth opportunities
Your first couple of days and weeks may include on-boarding sessions and training. Take advantage of any training time offered to ask questions and learn new skills. If there isn’t any formal training, find new sources of information on your own. This is a rare opportunity to understand how an organization works inside and out. To get the most from your internship, approach each hour of the working day with energy and curiosity.
8. Keep a journal to track experience
Over the course of your internship, make a habit of writing in a journal so you can recall ideas, learnings and accomplishments.
You’ll want to keep track of the details of your accomplishments, especially any metrics and numbers that can make your success tangible. Whether daily or weekly, these notes will be especially useful when you are updating your resume after your internship or asking your employer to be a professional reference.
9. Build a positive outlook throughout
During your internship, you will be learning many new skills, navigating a new hierarchy and stretching in all the ways that foster personal and professional growth. Each of these is likely to result in stress and self-doubt at one point or another.
To counteract that uncertainty, identify ways to build positive thinking. If you are journaling, document the highs as well as the lows. Practice gratitude by singling out the reasons behind the good outcomes. Be gentle with yourself when things don’t go as planned, and find meaningful ways to reward yourself for hard work done well.
This positivity can have a profound effect on both your mental and physical health. In fact, researchers have noted that optimism can lead to lower rates of depression, greater resistance to the common cold and better cardiovascular health.
10. Stay in touch
Not every internship will result in a job offer right away. If the company and work you’ve done are of interest to you, it’s a good practice to stay in touch so that when an opportunity does open up, you will be top of mind.
As your internship ends, send personalized thank you notes or emails to the people you’ve worked with. Mention projects you worked on together, express your gratitude for any guidance they provided and give them your personal contact information.
Here are some sentence starters you can include in your thank you notes:
- “I am thankful for the time we shared…”
- “I appreciate all the experience and knowledge I have gained during my internship…”
- “I would like to stay in touch…”
Follow the company on social media and use Indeed Company Pages to learn about new job openings.
You may want to send regular updates to the people you worked with closely. For example, if you’re working on a school or personal project related to your internship, you could send a note with the details. You can also invite your former colleagues to coffee. This is a great way to share your ambitions, learn what’s new with them and ask questions.
If you see a new job at the company that interests you, reach out to your contacts before you apply. They may be able to refer you to the position or give you insights to help tailor your application.