10 Tips to Capitalize on an Internship

10 Tips to Capitalize on an Internship

You have worked hard in college. You have written papers, passed exams and made friends for life. With graduation coming up next summer, it is time to get a taste of professional life in a field which interests you. In short, it is time to get an internship.

Though internships are frequently unpaid or only pay minimum wage, the real payment comes in the form of experience and contacts. Without experience, most potential employers will not give your resume a second look. Without contacts, you are unlikely to hear about professional opportunities.

And that is why one of the most important career strategies involves maximizing your internship. Here are 10 tips to capitalize on your internship so it will benefit you for years to come.

  1. Confirm expectations. We have all heard stories about interns sent out on endless coffee runs, or those who were expected to pick up their boss' dry cleaning and groceries every day. Career consultants say interns can expect to spend between 20% and 50% percent of their working hours on menial tasks, but beyond that, expect to be gaining valuable work-related experience. According to Forbes consultant Liz Ryan, a good strategy is to write your new boss an email with your expectations clearly stated at the beginning of your internship. Ask your boss to confirm your goals: that way, you will have a document to refer to  if you feel you are not being given an opportunity to meet your objectives.
  2. Dress professionally. Observe how co-workers at the office dress and adhere to their dress code. Never dress more casually than your co-workers, as it will affect higher-ups' perception of your professional skills and respect for your internship.
  3. Learn office culture. Collaboration is key to professional success, so it is vital that you get along with your colleagues. Watch how others behave at the office and mimic their behavior to fit in seamlessly and avoid unnecessary friction. You are not there to make waves; you are there to make connections.
  4. Take every task seriously. Give every little job your best during your internship. Even if you make mistakes, correct them and learn from them. This will enhance your chances of getting good results and receiving positive feedback from your co-workers. In addition, your supervisor is more likely to assign you more responsible tasks that allow you to put your professional skills to work.
  5. Be trustworthy. As an intern, you might feel your tasks are inferior to those of others, but when your boss needs that report copied right now, it is important to have it done. Follow instructions, complete tasks on time and do not complain. This way, you will build a reputation of trustworthiness-and that can be valuable in the long run.
  6. Be present. This should go without saying, but we will say it just in case you have forgotten: do not text your friends or use social networking sites during business hours. Hearing your phone buzz or bing can be distracting to others, plus, you should be focusing on your work!
  7. Check in with your supervisor.US News Money advises requesting feedback from your boss on a regular basis during your internship. Ask about things you could do better or differently, as well as what he or she sees as your strengths and weaknesses. Make notes and use the feedback to improve your overall performance.
  8. Value your coworkers' opinions. If you are serious about your career, it is wise to hear what other people have learnt along the way. Take the time to speak with your coworkers about their experiences and ask if they have any advice for you. Most people have pointers that can be useful to others who are just starting out.
  9. Network. An internship is the first chance you have to connect with others in your field. Make a point of introducing yourself, attending events and generally making yourself available. It is never too soon to start collecting business cards.
  10. Be positive. Making a positive impression is not only about being good at a job; it is also about being pleasant to work with.  That means you should always be positive when you are at work. Take the "glass is half full" approach and be pro-active. In addition, remember to thank your boss and anybody else who gives you an opportunity in your professional career. You will be remembered for it… in a good way!

Getting an internship can be intimidating, especially with little experience and few professional contacts. But by keeping the tips above in mind, you can maximize your internship and jumpstart your career!