If you’re nearing college graduation, you likely will be required to create an internship requirement for your major. This formal, hands-on learning experience is meant to give you a practical understanding of your field and the kind of job you might obtain upon graduation. Other terms you may hear used for this type of experience include practicum, graduate fellowship, residency and placement. Regardless of its title, obtaining a learning opportunity like this can enhance your chances of finding a job and will provide you with skills that weren’t taught in the classroom. There are some things you will need to do, though, to ensure that you get the most of your experience.
Have Realistic Expectations
As an intern, you will likely not be taking on tasks of monumental importance, particularly at the beginning of your experience. This is a learning period. As such, you will probably have to take on some monotonous duties. That’s not to say you should only be doing grunt work. It’s important to communicate with on-site your practicum supervisor and your faculty adviser regarding the kinds of learning opportunities you hope to receive. If possible, get a list in writing so that you can refer to it later. Just know that along with the nitty-gritty assignments come the boring and tedious, as well.
Prove Yourself from the Get-Go
From the moment you step into the position, be sure to go above and beyond, even in those boring tasks. By doing so, you’ll be demonstrating that you are a team player. You also might be surprised at the kinds of learning opportunities that come from volunteering for assignments and giving more than 100%. In addition, your positive attitude and initiative can earn you a positive recommendation letter for your career portfolio or even a chance at a job with the company should one become available.
While this is a learning experience, the work you do when given a more challenging task does impact the company for which you are working. Take that responsibility seriously. Do your best work and ask if you have questions. Should you make a mistake, be sure to own it and ask how you can make up for it. This professionalism will take you far in your internship, as well as in future jobs.
Get to Know Your supervisor
Your practicum supervisor is a valuable player in your education and growth as a professional. He or she can be a trusted mentor if you take the time to build a relationship. Ask for feedback and specific advice. Take advantage of this opportunity to learn directly from someone in your field. The effort will pay off in a both personal and career-oriented ways. The same is true for co-workers at the company. Take advice and ask questions at every opportunity. Making friends is always a good idea, and you never know when these relationships will be useful in the future in terms of job recommendations, information or even collaboration.
The type of experience you have during this time is ultimately up to you. By taking an active role, you will be sure to make the most of your internship and feel good about all you gained from the experience.