Tuesday, November 30, 2010

5 ways to maximize your internship experience

So you've been working diligently as a student. You've fought your way onto the Dean's List but after all the hard work do you feel adequately prepared for a full time job?

Internships are often more valuable than your entire undergraduate course work. They provide you with real life experiences in a professional environment. Going to class is vastly different from working in an office. Over the summer, I had three internships that kept me very busy, but it was very rewarding. I interned for United Way, The American Red Cross and the National Council for Negro Women.

My experience as an intern taught me that an undergraduate degree will not completely prepare you for an entry-level position. Throughout our educational career we have be told how to do everything. Teachers tell us exactly how long our assignments should be, they tell us how to format assignments, they tell us when to turn it in (even though they will accept it late), and they even tell us what type of content the assignment should contain. This type of direction is unrealistic and does not prepare us for a full time job.

An internship is only as valuable as the intern is. Here are some tips to help you make the most out of your internship.

1. Dress the part.

Observe the way people are dressed during your interview. Most likely, the dress code is business casual but each office has its own definition of business casual. Of the three internships I had this past summer, each of them had different extensions of business casual attire.

2. Don't be afraid to ask questions.

Asking questions is intimidating because you're admitting to not knowing something. However, it's better to ask questions and complete the task correctly than to wing it and do it wrong. An internship is a professional learning experience and your employer should recognize that. Asking questions show that you know how to gather information before making a decision. With that in mind, try to avoid asking questions that you can get the answer to. It's just lazy.

3. You are a part of the team, know your worth.

You are an intern because of your skills, don't hesitate to use them. Know your skills and realize the skills you need to improve. You may possess some skills that the company will benefit from. Who knows, they may even offer you a job position!

4. Build relationships.

This is not a jail sentence so why be glued to your work station? Talk to people and ask questions. Act as if you're interested in working there...hint hint. Ask questions like, "What do you enjoy most about working here?" or "Are days usually this busy?" People take notice to those types of things.

5. Be creative.

Channel your creative side to develop original and interesting ideas. This is the time to try things that you couldn't do in the classroom. If you crash and burn just pick of the ashes and throw them out! A mistake is another word for learning experience; it just has a negative connotation. Everyone makes mistakes, it's how you recover from them that shapes you. So don't be afraid to take risks!

Starting an internship is nerve racking but don't let your nerves overpower you. Hopefully, you can land a job position! Make the most out of this experience and remember you will need your boss for recommendations!

God Bless

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