Internships can give students and young professionals invaluable experience. They provide a host of other benefits that can be essential in helping people to build their careers.
A great idea before starting your internship is to work out what you would like to get out of it. If you go in with a plan and some goals, you'll feel more focused and driven throughout the internship.
What should your plan include?
There are a couple of things that everyone should have on their internship plan. As the internship continues, make sure that you’re checking these off, and look for opportunities to take on tasks that will help you meet them.
1. A chance to network
This is a big one. The opportunity to meet with employees, clients and industry leaders, add names to your LinkedIn profile and get business cards to follow up on after the internship are really valuable.
But the reality is that sometimes the internship involves a lot of time at your desk which doesn't promote networking. So take initiative, when it's lunchtime or breaks where other staff are waiting for the microwave or the kettle - take time to quickly introduce yourself, ask questions about what they do and start there! Don't be shy and say yes to Friday drinks or coffee invitations.
2. The opportunity to take initiative
The internship can add great value to your resume. Look for opportunities to contribute and don’t be afraid to ask questions and have ideas. Being able to stand out and demonstrate that you have initiative is a skill that is very much in demand among employers.
Sometimes that comes from being involved in meetings, or asking to attend brainstorming or strategy sessions that you can learn from.
3. A body of work
Following on from that, at the end of your internship you’ll want to have something tangible that you can show to future prospective employers. It might be something like a portfolio of projects you worked on, or a list of tasks that you completed within a larger group project. In other words, it’s important to be able to show what you learned and achieved during the internship, so be sure to find some way of quantifying and documenting it.
4. Skills that can’t be taught in class
A major reason for undertaking an internship is the opportunity to learn how your industry works, away from the theory learnt in class. Most people find that while their education provides the theoretical basis for their future employment, the day-to-day of the job is very different, featuring systems and processes that are specific to the sector.
As part of your internship you should pay close attention to how projects are planned, how people in the organisation interact with their colleagues or clients, how weekly meetings are run, and so on. Understanding how a business and industry works will help you progress your career.
5. Get references
Remember those people you worked with on that project? Ask them to be a referee. References are crucial to your future job prospects, and luckily, there’s a really easy way to get them. LinkedIn has a feature where people can leave you “recommendations”, if you received positive feedback from your manager, ask if they could leave this a recommendation on your profile.
These can be short paragraphs that don’t take long at all to write up, so don’t feel like you’re imposing on your network. When you don't have any other previous or industry related work experience, those recommendations could be super valuable on your resume. Between those and the standard references, you’ll have plenty of references to show employers what you’re like to work with.
6. Find a mentor
Of course, you’ll be learning from everyone that you interact with throughout your internship, but you should also try to find a mentor – someone higher up in the organisation who is willing to take additional time to share their wisdom and provide career development advice.
This can be as simple as inviting one of the leaders in the organisation that you admire the most to have coffee and ask them questions about their job and sector. Having the initiative to ask this is also a positive reflection on your ambition, and helps you to stand out as a prospect to watch.
7. End on a high note
Whether you were there for a week or a few months, a thank you to your mentor, team or office doesn't go unnoticed. The goal is to leave a lasting impression, and this could be a written thank you note with some chocolates to your mentor, and a jar of cookies or donuts for the rest of the office to share on a Friday afternoon. You'll never know when an opportunity will come up in the future or if that contact could be a referee.
Another way to look organised on the first day of your internship is to make sure you have all your work documents ready - bank details, tax forms and your super choice form. Student Super can help you get a super account before you start work with zero fees for balances under $1,000. Find out more here