As an undergraduate student, switching gears between your internship and your school work can be challenging. However, if you’ve had the opportunity to hold an internship (paid or unpaid), you’re a step ahead of many of your fellow classmates! Whether you are completing your internship throughout the semester or during your seasonal breaks, internships are a great way to not only build professional experience, but also build your network and get your foot in the door of a company you admire.
From day one of an internship, you should be taking these 6 steps to ensure you are well-positioned for a full-time role if the opportunity arises:
Step 1: Display a strong work ethic
Your prospective employer will be evaluating your performance in a variety of ways that you might not be aware of, so it’s important to maintain a strong work ethic whenever you are on company time. For example, arriving on time, taking reasonable lunch breaks, or following company dress code should be no brainers. However, other factors to consider revolve around your use of company time, which can include your personal phone usage, browsing of social media, or meeting project deadlines.
Step 2: Show initiative and enthusiasm
As an intern, it can be easy to feel as if your talents are being underutilized, but, it’s important to stay focused on the big picture, especially if you’re hoping it turns into a full-time opportunity! Your manager will be evaluating your willingness to get the job done, so whether you are grabbing coffee for the team or tediously combing through Excel spreadsheets, take all of these tasks in stride. Along the same lines, volunteer to help other colleagues where you can and be willing to do as much as you can to improve your skillset.
Step 3: Ask questions and learn from mistakes
When starting any new job, there is always a learning curve you should expect to experience, so don’t stress too much if things don’t run smoothly immediately. Instead, try your best to absorb and learn as much as you can during the time you are working. It’s important to ask questions if you don’t understand something, take constructive criticism when you can, and learn from your mistakes (and the mistakes of others) by making new suggestions. At the end of the day, you must demonstrate to your manager that you will be an asset to the team if you get the opportunity to work with them in the future.
Step 4: Network, network, network
In the professional realm, the old saying “it’s not what you know, but who you know,” reigns true for interns as well. Being comfortable talking to your team members is great, but in order to thrive in any role, it’s important to build out your professional network. For example, consider attending mixers or networking events geared towards other interns in your organization or industry. Along the same lines, consider building working relationships with other colleagues which can potentially mature into a mentor/mentee relationship, as they can be a great resource for career or personal advice.
Step 5: Show your employer you WANT to work with them
If your ultimate goal is to be hired full-time upon graduating, let them know! This isn’t to say you should remind them every other day that you want a full-time job, but you should try to arrange one on one time with your manager every once in a while to keep them abreast of your career interests. Slowly but surely, your manager will see that you are truly committed to building a career with their company.
Step 6: Stay in touch
Don’t make it a habit of only touching base with your manager when internship season rolls around, as this shows that you’re only interested in communicating when you want something. Instead, make it a point to send your manager (or select colleagues) an email to update them on your semester, or a quick phone call just to catch up. While these might seem insignificant, the simple gesture of wanting to stay in touch will show your employer that you’re interested in establishing a long-term relationship with them.