It’s no secret that getting an internship while in college is vital. We’ve heard it from college professors, parents and professionals how having an internship not only exposes you to the workplace and real life, but it gives you a one-up when applying for jobs after graduation.
Some internships out there consist of going on coffee runs for coworkers, making copies and sitting around learning nothing. These types of internships add little value to your portfolio.
Making the most of your internship starts with you putting in effort to make sure you’re setting yourself up for success. Not sure how to do that? Here’s my step-by-step advice to make sure you get the most out of your internship while in college.
Step 1: Prepare
Before you start looking for an internship, make sure you’re prepared for applications and potential interviews. I recommend you:
- Participate in mock interview sessions.
- Attend resume review or resume building classes.
- Tailor your resume to each organization you apply to (not only does this show you took the time to research the company and job requirements, but it also makes your experience seem more aligned to the requirements).
Step 2: Attend career fairs
When you’re considering internships, it is important to have a full understanding of what you’re looking for. If you’re unsure of where to even look for an internship, I recommend checking out a career fair at school. To prepare:
- Research what companies will be in attendance.
- Make a list of the top five companies you are interested in and visit their booths first.
- Research each of those company’s culture, roles and history so you have a general understanding of who they are.
Step 3: Apply and accept a position
Find a company that fits you and your short-term and long-term career goals. When interviewing for positions and receiving job offers, I suggest keeping a few things in mind:
- Don’t miss out on an opportunity by not applying for roles or to companies that interest you. Furthermore, be open-minded. You never know what you will like or don’t like until you try it.
- Be hesitant to accept the first opportunity you’re offered. Sometimes the best fit for you will happen later in your search.
- Understand the goals, expectations and opportunities the company has for you during the internship and potentially long-term. Do these align with what your expectations of what an internship should be?
- Find out more about the culture and atmosphere of a company if they offer you an internship. Are you sure this is somewhere you would be happy to spend 40-plus hours a week?
Step 4: Start your internship
OK, you got the internship! Now what? How do you make the most of the three months you have with the company?
- Always be learning. An internship is more than just learning about a specific role or company. It is a way to discover what your strengths and areas of improvement are in the “real world.” Seek advice from your peers and leaders at the end of your internship.
- Be adaptable. There may be times when you are given a task to complete with little direction. Get comfortable with learning how to resolve situations quickly and confidently.
- Get involved. As important as it is to do a great job during an internship, it is just as important to network with those around you. Make friends and connections. Most importantly, make an impact!
- Lastly, be OK with making mistakes. Learn, grow and move on. You’re not the first to make a mistake and most certainly won’t be the last.