Written by Elizabeth Kim. According to the Harvard Business Review, around 75 percent of college students, at some point during their academic journey, have engaged in an internship (Coleman). For many new internees, who are dipping their feet into the adult-working world for the first time, the prospects of their internship may be a daunting and nerve-wracking experience.
How does one properly commence their daily tasks and duties? How does one leave a lasting impression? How does one approach and recover from unprecedented mistakes? I served as a panelist for an Internship program at my university alongside other brilliant mentors who have had diverse and successful internship and work experience. Through engaging and discussing with one another during our advice panel, we laid-out some crucial points on how to smoothly transition, actively participate, and create meaningful experiences out of one’s incoming internship.
Pre-Departure Mindset: Being Flexible in the Ways You Think Creates Flexibility in the Way you Adjust to New Environments
Expectations. It’s a large and heavy word and sometimes beneficial to keep at the back of your mind. However, sometimes expectations can be limitations; what you expect can instead end up creating strict molds for you and the situation may be more stressful if things don’t go in the manner you anticipated. Therefore, sometimes it is better to let expectations go and instead be prepared to encounter just about anything. Learn the “lingo” of your internship as fast as possible and reconfigure your vocabulary to parallel your surroundings. For example, if your supervisor informs you “We will have a QC in 10 minutes”, you should catch on by the first week that QC means “quick check”. If you are unsure of any aspect regarding your internship, always ask questions! Clarity is always preferable over uncertainty and the way to clarify anything is to ask questions.
Immersing Yourself into the Internship: Time Management and Goals
Structure is extremely important. Recognizing priorities and fully comprehending work timelines is vital for a successful internship. Ask yourself: What aspects of this project will take the longest? What aspects are the most urgent? Can this be broken down into parts? Familiarize yourself with using reminders, schedules, Google calendar, and/or other forms of organization. It is also important that you set personal timelines alongside official timelines. Reflect upon the ways in which you work: do you lose focus easily? When and in what environment are you most productive? If you have to turn in a document in three days, how should you arrange your daily timeframe to meet that deadline?
Towards the End:
Maintain your commitment and focus. Even if you applied for an internship within your field of interest, you are going to be assigned tasks that you simply do not want to do. You may consider them to be banal time-fillers or even daunting challenges. Regardless, maintain a positive mindset, take advantage and hone your skill-sets, and consistently work to your best ability. Maturity in the adult-working environment starts with defeating your own reluctance to complete certain tasks. Stay vigilant and committed and don’t be afraid to reward yourself when you get the job done.
Ending on a Strong Note:
A recurring piece of advice during my internship seminar was to network, network, and network. A working environment is simultaneously a social one and the relationships that you form, even one your coffee break, absolutely count. As an intern, you are also a fully-immersed participant in real-life work culture. Stay connected with the people you interact with on social media, express your gratitude if your co-workers have assisted or have guided you in any way, or leave thank-you notes before your internship concludes. Overall, end your internship on a productive and positive note because that is the image people will remember you by. Through networking and staying visible within your community, you can pave a path for advancing your future career or gaining more meaningful and helpful opportunities.
Whether you may be experienced at interning or just starting to dip your feet into the internship world, it’s always important to remind yourself to practice good internship work ethic. Remember to stay confident, motivated, positive, and committed! You have what it takes to be a successful intern so go get it!