How to Maximize an Internship

With a plethora of online job boards that sift through pools of online applications and resumes looking for keywords to determine if applicants are qualified for job postings or not, the reality of the situation is that you’re not always going to be able to land your dream internship.

However, there is always a way to maximize your internship experience and garner transferable skills that can help you land your dream job after college.

As a recent college graduate from George Mason University, I have found through my internship experience prior to working at Isom Global Strategies, that the best way to maximize an internship, regardless if the internship is with your dream company or the last company on your list is to;

  1. Set Goals – In the beginning of an internship take time to meet with your supervisor to discuss not only their expectations of you but what you expect out of the internship.  This is a great opportunity for you to highlight your interests and skills that you would like to learn so that your supervisor can keep that in mind as they assign you tasks. Make sure both you and your supervisor have a copy of the goals and expectations discussed during this initial meeting.
  2. "Mid-internship Check-In" – Schedule a mid-internship check-in at the end of your initial meeting with your supervisor. Use this check-in as a way to evaluate your progress towards meeting the goals and expectations set during your initial meeting with your supervisor. As an intern, it is easy to get caught up in your work. I have found these mid-internship check-ins to be a great way to put in perspective what I was gaining from the internship and the lack there of, for both me and my prior internship supervisors.
  3. Be Observant – Outside of staying up-to-date with company news make sure to take the time to observe your surroundings. As an intern, you are often given access to meetings, events, and corporate culture that can provide you with an abundance of knowledge that you can only gain through experience. There is always something you can pick up on; use your intern privileges to your advantage.
  4. Leave a Lasting Impression – As an intern, you typically have three months or so to get your coworkers to trust you, value your opinion and to prove yourself as a part of the team. Take ownership of the tasks and work you are given, regardless of how big or small, and complete them to the best of your ability! When given the opportunity, be creative, be innovative and speak up!
  5. Take Initiative – Don’t be that intern that sits around and plays on the computer until they are given a task. There is ALWAYS something that you can do to help better the company you are working for. You should NEVER be bored at an internship. If there is something that you know typically needs to get done such as a weekly blog post, daily company tweets, research, inventory, organizing, etc. take it upon yourself to do it even if you are told there is nothing for you to do. Being proactive and completing tasks without being told improves the company’s productivity and can help you gain some points with your supervisor, who may one day be a great reference or in a position to hire you.
  6. Don’t Just Network, Build Relationships – The best advice I received from one of my mentors is that companies don’t hire people, people hire people. Internships provide you with access to a network of people within your field that can potentially hire you or vouch for your work ethic. It is vital that you take the time to really get to know the people you work with and build relationships with them.  When you can, make sure to introduce yourself to not only the people you will be working directly under but anyone else you may encounter while interning with a company.  Participate in company outings, grab lunch with co-workers, and pop-in to say hello to your co-workers when you can!
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