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How to Maximize Your Internship Experience: 5 Proven Tips for Success

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about finding a high-quality internship that went over like gangbusters. So we're back at it, talking about how to make the most of that high-quality internship.

So, you've scored that internship you've been eyeing. It's just a few weeks away, and you're feeling a mix of excitement and nerves. Will you fit in? Will you meet their expectations? It's natural to feel this way. You've got a golden opportunity; naturally, you want to make the most of it.

Many students sit back during an internship out of fear, not wanting to appear pushy or bother busy people, and expecting that they will handle whatever comes their way. However, this is YOUR internship, and the only person who will make it what you want it to be is YOU.

5 Tips for Making the Most of Your Internship:

  1. Understand your position clearly. Don't hesitate to ask for a written description and seek clarification if anything is unclear. This will help you start on the right foot.

  2. Set SMART goals for yourself. Before you start your internship, ask yourself some questions:

    1. What do I want to get out of the internship?

    2. What skills do I want to develop? Include soft skills such as communication, teamwork, and leadership and hard skills (e.g., learning technology or a new programming language). Setting SMART goals is a crucial strategy for your success. Review your goals weekly and develop action plans to achieve them. This structured approach will guide your internship experience and ensure you're on the right track. Understanding how to set goals that are SMART—specific, measurable, actionable, relevant, and time-bound—is critical to your success. You have to know where you're going to get there, after all. I love this four-minute video that sums up what SMART goals are all about.

  3. Seek feedback. Ask to meet with your internship supervisor regularly. I’ve known students who have never met with their supervisor or received feedback until the end of the experience. This shouldn’t be the case. To make the most of your opportunity, you need to receive feedback throughout your time with the company, but note that you may have to be the one to ask. I suggest weekly or biweekly 30-minute meetings. You need to plan for the meeting because you do not want to waste your supervisor’s time or appear unprepared or uninterested. Prepare questions about your work and how you can contribute, and highlight skills you want to learn.

  4. Take initiative. You should never be caught with nothing to do. You should not be found surfing the web or making personal calls. If you run out of things to do, find things to do or let your supervisor know you have completed your assigned tasks and ask for additional responsibilities. Look around you and see if there are problems you can solve, then talk with your supervisor about it. Taking the initiative demonstrates commitment and leadership and is probably the most impressive thing you can do during an internship.

  5. Network. Take the opportunity to meet as many people as you can. If there are company happy hours or other social events, attend. Introduce yourself to people doing the kind of work you want to do and ask for an informational interview. This article provides an excellent summary of informational interviewing. Pick their brains about their work and the industry, and connect on LinkedIn to stay in touch.

It's great that you have an internship, but the internship doesn't make you; YOU MAKE THE INTERNSHIP. You'll get out of it what you put in.


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