Whether you are working part-time or full-time, paid or unpaid, you have been given an opportunity to learn from seasoned professionals—here are some things you can do to make sure the experience doesn’t go to waste.
Find the right place
Before you decide to take an internship, make sure that you are a fit for the company. If you don't like the company or your potential boss, you are going to be in for a long internship. Use your interview as a test. Remember, you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. If it doesn't feel right, it's OK to walk away.
The age old saying goes that you have two ears and one mouth, so you should listen twice as much as you talk; take this to heart in your internship. Pretty much everyone around you has been in your situation before and has expertise in an area that you don't. Listen to what they have to say and ask for their advice. You'll be surprised how much you can learn by just using your ears and listening to others around you.
During your internship, there are almost always going to be chances for you to do your own project. Look for things that you can bring to the business that they don't already have. Ask your boss if there's anything you can help with. Volunteering and putting yourself out there is a great opportunity for you to get an assignment you wouldn't have otherwise had.
Take it seriously
Yes you are just an intern and in a few weeks or months you might be done with this company, but don't run on autopilot. This is a job. Think of your internship as an extended interview. Your boss is watching how you complete your assignments, how you interact with the rest of the staff, how you act and dress, and everything in-between. Represent your personal brand to the fullest. Whether you are hoping to get a full-time job with this company or just a recommendation, almost everything you do represents who you are. Make sure you are presenting yourself the way you hope to be perceived.
So you need to take your job seriously, but don't be afraid to enjoy your time either. Interacting with your coworkers is another large part of an internship. Joke around with others and, when appropriate, join in on office activities. You can gain a lot of respect as a worker for doing your job well, but you can gain allies and pals by being an enjoyable person to be around. Work hard and be yourself and you will be respected both as a worker and as an individual.
Appreciate the opportunity
Although not all internships are extremely complicated or entertaining, appreciate the experiences you're able to have. You are expanding your professional network. You are gaining experience in a subject you might not have had before. You are joining a team of people that are willing to help you grow your skillset. Don't take this for granted. Whether your boss has you doing intricate work or just using a spreadsheet, understand that you now have a foot in the door.
As you pave your professional path, your internship experience will be something that can separate you. Not only have you gained tasks to put on your resume, but your new expanded network can help you reach places that you couldn't have touched before. Learn as much as possible, work hard, and be yourself. Because sooner than you know it, your internship will be over and everything will become just a memory. Make sure that you are creating something worth remembering.