By Veronika Vesela
How to make most out of your internship
Internships are no longer the equivalent to boring coffee runs and filing. More and more employers are utilizing internships as a pipeline (or pathway) into graduate-level roles, so making a great impression is a must! Of course, there are countless lists of do’s and don’ts available online, so today I’m not going to repeat that you need to be polite, punctual or well-dressed - you already know that!
Instead, read what employers really look for in an intern, based on what the Careers team and I keep hearing in our daily conversations with industry representatives.
Employers love proactive interns, so if you ever find yourself sitting behind your desk waiting for someone to give you a task or a project, look around to see who looks like they could use your help, or simply ask around.
If you don’t understand something, ask! It’s better to be safe than sorry. If you feel that the timing is not right to ask too many questions (for example, your team is working towards an important deadline), take the initiative and self-learn.
This goes hand in hand with point #1. An internship is a learning opportunity, so even if you don’t feel like you can contribute to a particular task or project, or are afraid you’re going to make a mistake, give it a shot!
Although the real world may seem scary, especially if you are completing your first internship, you may be surprised by how much organizations actually value your opinion, suggestions or creative approach. The fact is that you are more likely to think outside of the box because you’re coming in with an outside perspective, as opposed to staff who may have been in the role for years who tend to stick to proven solutions instead of finding new and creative ones.
“Our two UTS interns have now been with us for three weeks, and I am really impressed with the standard of work and their attitude. And they seem to be enjoying working with us too which is always good!”, said marketing director of one of the leading global think tanks.
But don’t be too confident!
There’s a thin line between being confident and being arrogant. This may, for example, translate to a refusal to complete some menial tasks. Although nowadays internships are much better structured than in the past, and offer interesting work or projects to work on, you may still get asked to do a coffee run, photocopying or file documents every now and then - which is fine, as long as these tasks don’t make up the majority of your internship.
I’ve spoken with an internship host who once asked the student to spend half a day organizing paperwork, only to be told off by the student who felt that this is beneath them.
So, it’s best that you leave this attitude home and make the most of your internship by learning, observing, and taking notes.
Network and stay connected
I cannot stress enough the importance of networking and staying connected even after you have completed your internship. Remember to expand your network beyond just your immediate team. If you bump into someone you don’t know or haven’t met yet, introduce yourself and mention your role. If there are other interns in the organization, reach out to them as well. They may not have an extensive network yet, but they may turn out to be a great connection in the long run.
This is another facet of being proactive, which employers always appreciate. They like to stay connected with their interns because they never know when they’ll need someone like you for another project or even a full-time role in the future.
Although you may not know what you want to do after you complete your degree, it’s always helpful if you identify what you’d like to get out of your internship. Is it technical knowledge? Honing your soft skills? Learning how to write reports? Finding out more about what it’s like to work in a particular industry or role?
Defining your goals will help you and your host organization structure your internship better, and allow you focus on one or two particular areas, or, rotate you across departments if your goal is to find out what it’s like to work in the industry as a whole.
You may either fall in love with the job, or, realize that this is something you wouldn’t enjoy, which will allow you to move on and get a better understanding of yourself and things you enjoy.
Bear in mind that not everyone will end up doing what they love, but at the same time, it is not sustainable to do a job that you hate.
The majority of employers want to do the right thing by students when it comes to internships or work experience, however some students have a less than enjoyable experience. If you or someone you know have concerns about an internship or any work experience you’ve had, UTS wants to know about it.
Here’s what you can do:
- Call Careers on 9514 1471 to have a confidential conversation about your experience
- Submit confidential feedback about an employer via CareerHub
- Anonymously report an employer or business to Fair Work
Veronika Vesela is a UTS:Careers Business Development Officer, helping increase the number of internship and other employment-related opportunities available to UTS Students. Before joining UTS, she worked as an online editor with a Health and Fashion & Beauty focus, social media coordinator in a digital marketing agency and an internship consultant. She believes that this diverse mix of skills allows her to connect UTS Students and Graduates well with the industry.
Featured image courtesy of Unsplash.