If you’ve just landed yourself an internship, well done! You’re about to receive some valuable work experience as well as have the opportunity to prove yourself to a potential full-time employer. These days, internships can be hard to come by as you’re competing with all the other recent graduates looking for their dream job. And that’s why it’s so important that you “own your internship”.
What does “owning your internship” mean? It means that at the end of the set period of time, you’ve gained knowledge and insight into the industry, have had the opportunity to be mentored and hopefully will be offered a junior position. So, how do you “own your internship”? Well, here are five pieces of valuable advice that will make all the difference.
Your application was probably one in a giant stack of applications from equally qualified people and you got the job. Do not waste this opportunity by treating it as a casual position. What you do now matters and how you behave in the workplace will decide whether you get a full-time position or a good reference. You’re not acting like it’s a real job, it is a real job. And you are expected to be professional, follow the dress code and behave in a manner that is fitting to the company culture. Don’t get involved in office politics or gossip and always be on time, whether it’s to the office, a meeting or an informal brainstorm after hours. Avoid staying out late with your friends on weeknights or you’ll feel exhausted at work the next day. And when you’re lying in bed wondering how to make yourself get up in the morning, remember, this is definitely a real job.
If you’re so overloaded with work that you have to stay at the office until after dark and arrive before it’s light, don’t complain. If you have to go on seven coffee runs in one day, don’t complain. If a more senior colleague refers to you only as “intern” and treats you like their personal assistant, don’t complain. Even if you find yourself sitting with colleagues after work and they’re all unloading about how much work they have and how difficult the boss is to please, say nothing. They’ve worked their way into a position where they have the right to complain, you have not. And their work most likely involves a lot more responsibility and pressure than yours does. Respect that you’re an intern and never say a bad word about a colleague, the company or your workload.
Put your hand up for every task
No matter how small a task is, if it needs to be done, make sure you’re the one to do it. If someone mutters that they could really do with a cup of tea, offer to make it for them. It may seem like a waste of your time when you could be doing something more involved with the actual business, but that person will remember your name. And if someone is overloaded with work, offer to take over their admin or whatever simpler tasks you’re able to do. The more you put your hand up, the more you’ll be noticed. Just remember that if it’s an exciting and complicated task, your senior colleagues will get first priority, every single time. So, be happy with the small tasks, they are what will make people remember who you are and appreciate what you’ve done for them and, therefore, the company.
Sure, it’s natural to be shy on your first day. But fight the urge to sit at your desk and avoid all interaction with other people. Put on a brave face and introduce yourself. Yes, even to the CEO. In fact, especially to the CEO. If you want people to know who you are and remember your name, you’re going to have to make an effort to know who they are and learn their names. It can be incredibly intimidating at times, but if you stutter or say something silly, no one will judge you because they’ve likely been where you are now and understand how nervous you are.
Find a mentor
This is incredibly important if you want to “own your internship”. To make the most of this opportunity, you need to find someone who can teach you valuable lessons and give insight into the industry you want to be in. Preferably this person should be someone who is currently in a position you’d like to be in. However, don’t pick someone too senior because they might not have the time to spend with you or they may expect you to understand complicated terminology because it comes naturally to them. Instead, choose someone with two to three years’ experience in the business and in that position. Of course, you may be assigned a mentor on day one if the company is committed to seeing what you’re capable of. If you’re given the opportunity to have a mentor, make the most of it and good luck!