Five ways to stand out at your internship

Last updated: 22 Jun 2023, 13:24

Intern

Landing an internship is an achievement in itself. Once you’ve landed the internship, you need to focus on making the most out of this opportunity. It’s not enough to simply turn up on time and complete all the tasks. You need to take a longer-term view.

1. Set goals

If your aim is to secure a graduate job offer from your internship employer, make sure you understand what the graduate recruitment criteria are and use your placement to fill in the gaps in your skills and experience. Brush up on the skills they are looking for by taking any opportunity to practise them during the internship. For example, if you need to refine your public speaking skills, then volunteer to present on team projects. This will also show your employer that you are hardworking and proactive.

2. Learn from observation

You can learn a lot about the company and the industry from observation. Observation is a good way to pick up on what people might not tell you directly. It can help you learn how to behave in the workplace and pick up on the unspoken assumptions made by your colleagues.

From the internship, you may figure out that the job you are doing, the employer or the industry isn’t for you. Even if this is the case, try your best to make a good impression and pick up as many transferable skills as you can. It’s a small world and the contacts you make and the skills you pick up might be valuable later on. Reflect on why you've decided it isn’t for you and use these insights to help point you in your new direction.

3. Be proactive

Companies value employees who can bring something extra to the business, even at an intern level. Don’t be afraid to make suggestions for improvement or to put forward new ideas. Be prepared to take on new challenges and don’t shy away from attempting tasks that are out of your comfort zone.

Being proactive will help get you noticed and will give you the experience you need to work at a higher level, even if you are looking to work elsewhere.

4. Network

Sticking with interns and fresh graduates at lunchtime or social events is tempting but it’s a good idea to try and strike up conversations with more senior colleagues, especially those involved in recruitment or who could advise you on your career. Take advantage of the fact that you are working with people who are doing the job you want to learn more about and ask them about the work and how they got their job.

There’s no need to jump straight into job related questions when having a conversation with more senior co-workers. Start with simple and neutral questions like asking them about their weekend or talking about the venue if you are at an event. You can also ask them how long they have been at the company and what they did before that. You’ll soon figure out whether that person is inclined to chat.

If you’re in a situation where you feel that it is the opportune moment to ask someone for career advice or ask a burning question, don’t be afraid to introduce yourself and say what you want or ask if it would be possible to chat later.

Opportunities for career related questions will come up naturally during your internship but you should be prepared to make the first move. You can approach a co-worker and ask them if they have a moment to answer a few questions but don’t interrupt people who are obviously busy.

The network that you develop during your internship can become an invaluable source of advice and insight and may help you find out about further work experience and future job opportunities. Ask your contacts if they’d be happy to stay in touch after your internship and if they are you can connect via social media platforms such as LinkedIn.

5. Get noticed

Working hard and making a positive contribution is important but it won’t get you far if nobody notices your efforts. Talk to your co-workers about your work and ask about their projects. Be open and factual about what you have learned and what you hope to do next. The key is finding the balance between being overly modest and boasting.

Your network can talk you up. It can be difficult to highlight your accomplishments without appearing to brag. However, if a member of your team tells the graduate recruitment team about your hard work, they are likely to listen.

Before your internship ends, be sure to ask your line manager if they would be happy to provide you with a reference for future employers.

gradireland editorial advice

This describes editorially independent and impartial content, which has been written and edited by the gradireland content team. Any external contributors featuring in the article are in line with our non-advertorial policy, by which we mean that we do not promote one organisation over another.

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