How to make the most of your internship opportunity
Hear from those in the know as well as industry experts on how to make your internship memorable for you and your employer.
Congratulations, you’ve got the internship you wanted. Now comes the hard part. It’s one thing to be professional and to do what is expected of you by your managers and supervisors. But it’s another to go beyond that. The ones who go the extra mile will be remembered and rewarded by employers.Your approach to the internship needs to include a well thought-out plan, which also leaves room for flexibility. As the internship progresses, new standards can be reached and with them your goals will change.
Set your goals
One of the typical goals of any intern, especially with major graduate recruiters, is to get a place on the graduate programme. Luckily for you, the internship route is one of the most secure ways to get a place. The internship programme is viewed as a feeder programme for the graduate programme. “ Ideally most, if not all of our interns will go on to the graduate programme ”, a senior Graduate Recruiter for PwC told gradireland.
You have to keep in mind what skills you are lacking and how best you can develop them. For example, if you need to learn even basic coding, which is more and more prevalent across a range of technical professions, not just IT, make sure you pick up any extra training that’s on offer. “In my internship you could do as much training as you wanted even if it wasn’t relevant to your internship. I did classes to top-up my French which Plan offered”, says Rossa O’Donnell who did a nine-month internship at NGO Plan Ireland .
After a while in the job you may realise that this line of work isn’t for you. Or, as is the case in professions where there are limited full-time jobs like in Journalism or the NGO sector, there may be no job at the end of it. Nevertheless, always strive to make a strong impression. Your boss or colleagues may have good contacts in the industry, which can help you get a foot on the ladder in another company or even just for good networking opportunities. The world is small. Strive to never to leave a bad impression.
This is essential. Never be afraid to speak up or take on a different challenge. Got an interesting idea? Say it. Notice what you consider a flaw in the business? Voice your opinion, in a constructive fashion and through the correct channels. Don’t shirk it even if it might mean a little extra work because the long-term benefits for your career will be worth it.
Being proactive also allows you to increase the amount you learn in your internship. “You don’t learn this in college, but when you come into the job you expect that everyone will help you and do the thing for you that you need. But it doesn’t work like that. People won’t do anything for you unless you know how to deal with people in a professional environment. I learnt over a few months how to interact with people, how to get on with people”, says Michael Redmond, a former intern at pharmaceutical company, AbbVie, and former winner of the Graduate Employee of the Year at the gradireland Graduate Recruitment Awards.
Watch and learn
A lot of what you learn in your internship won’t come in formal training. It will come from observing the people around you and taking the time to reflect on what you’ve done and what route you are going. This is also a great way to learn those valuable workplace skills unfamiliar to someone in an office environment for the first time. Observe which one of your colleagues has the most respect and ask why? What earns him/her the respect of their colleagues?
Also reflecting constantly allows you to specify which part of the job you like the most and would like to be a part of going into the future. Are you surprised by how much you enjoy the more technical aspects of the business? Or is it high-pressure meetings with clients that you really love? Therefore internships are a great way for you to learn about yourself and what you are good are. “I was really surprised by how resilient I am when dealing with high pressure situations with customers”, says Susan Howard, who did a work placement with Enterprise Rent-A-Car . “I want to go into risk management and I think the internship was really beneficial for me and it is such an invaluable tool to have on your CV”, she adds.
Build your network
The first few days of any internship can be daunting so the temptation to stick with the other interns and, possibly, with the graduate starters is tempting. But think long-term. Strike up conversations with more senior members or staff, maybe even bosses, and don’t be afraid to initiate contact with colleagues involved in recruitment who will happily give you some advice about your possible career direction. They are there to help you and they are in that line of work because that’s what they want to do, so don’t feel shy about approaching them whether by email or in person.
In all companies, networking is really valued and sometimes actively promoted. In Accenture, for example, it is one of the essential elements of a successful internship. Work-related events, meet-ups and social clubs are all brilliant opportunities to meet people from any position in the full-time sector and you never know, striking up a good conversation could lead to a great career opportunity.
Make sure to make a note of everyone you’ve met and what the person said, especially if it could lead to something beneficial in the future. Jot down as much as possible from your training too and keep it. The path of your internship can be open and perhaps some things you did in training you may not expand upon much during the rest of the internship. Therefore, it is good five years down the line to still have that training to reference if necessary.
Get noticed – for the right reasons
Having good ideas and working hard is all well and good, but what use is it if nobody notices? Talk to colleagues and find out about their projects and offer help that can benefit them. Be straight with them too and tell them what you hope to achieve and where you expect your future to be.
Try to impress them and they may sing your praises to others so you don’t have to. If a senior member of staff tells the graduate recruitment team how great you’ve been doing, they’re going to listen.