Internships have long been known as great opportunities for university students to put there theoretical knowledge into practice and get a hands-on experience in their field. While, often times, a successful internship may result in a job offer, the point of interning is not just that.
More often than not, internships give students the opportunity to see whether their desired industry is really suitable for them. Besides, it looks great on the resume and you can always count on your mentors to write a stellar recommendation for your future employers, which obviously eases the process of applying for jobs.
American students, in particular, are encouraged to find an internship as early into their college career as possible. Internships can last anywhere between a few weeks to a full year, but most students do it over the summer. While most internships remain unpaid, it is not rare to see paid internship positions, which can often time replace regular student jobs. While interning, students are treated as regular employees and valued no less than any other staff member.
Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to hear students complaining that all they had to do in the office was make coffee and copies, but this too is part of the experience. Having said that, small companies tend to be more dedicated to their interns than larger companies, which sometimes even employ a few hundreds of interns and do not have enough time to take care of every single one of them.
Most interns are allowed to design their own schedule and most internships run three to five days a week, about 30 hours per week. Upon the completion of an internship, a student should gain valuable knowledge in their field and some basic understanding of how the office is run, what is expected from that particular position and what makes a successful employee in the field, among others. Students also get used to working in a professional environment, which eases the transition later on when the student graduates and moves into the “real world.”
As someone who has interned four times for four completely different kind of companies, I can promise you that, yes, it is worth it and, yes, you will learn a lot. Some of my experiences were terrible; others were great, but they all taught me valuable lessons that I will be able to one day apply to my real job.
Here is my ultimate list of things you can do to 1) land an internship and 2) be the best intern they have ever had!
- Network, network, network! Some of the best internships have happened through networking. Parents, friends, family members, acquaintances…somebody has to have something in store for you. Just ASK!
- Be persistent! Nothing great has happened over night and finding an internship is no different. You will have to apply a hundred times. You will probably get rejected a hundred times (or maybe not!) But the 101st shot will surely land you something amazing. Just keep trying.
- Work on your resume. If you do not know where to start— google it! There are plenty of great templates that you can find online, then just go ahead and fill them up with your information. Remember, resume is the first thing your employer sees, so be sure to crash it.
- Get great recommendations. Past employer, your favorite professor…anyone who knows you well will be able to write you a good one. Just make sure to build great relationships with people, so you can turn in once the right time comes.
- Stand out from the crowd! Your cover letter should speak of you as a person, not you as a student. What motivates you? What are you passionate about? What makes you different from hundreds of other candidates with perfect grades? Do you have a website or a blog? Maybe you have a Youtube channel? Impress them!
- If you land an interview, make sure to follow up and send your employer a thank you e-mail. Little acts of kindness go a long way.
Now, issuing you have already nailed one, here are some tips on what you can do to leave a great impression (and maybe land a job):
- Always show up on time. The intern should always be the first one at the office and the last one to leave at the end of the day. This shows your employer how much you care about the job, so do not leave as soon as the clock ticks.
- Dress for success! Always be clean and presentable. Being a little too dressed up is much better than being dressed down.
- Treat everyone with respect. Your coworkers remember you and will probably have a chat with your boss about you, so be nice to everyone.
- Ask questions! This is your time to learn so make sure you ask questions. Use common sense though and do not go overboard with this or you will seriously piss everyone off.
- Understand that making coffee is too part of the experience and if you are at any point given this task, do it with a smile on your face. It counts.
- It is okay to make mistakes— learn from them. Your boss will appreciate you learning from whatever went wrong in the past and then improving in the future but will probably not tolerate you making the same mistake twice.
- Be a great team player. Remember, this is not about your own success but about the success of the company, so team up and work together, not against anyone (not even other interns).
- Do not talk badly about anyone to your coworkers. Word spreads— be smart.
- You are the fresh cookie in the company and are somewhat expected to bring fresh, new ideas with you. So do not hesitate to be creative and thikg out of the box— a little creativity will sure impress everyone.
- If you are sick, call in sick. Do not just ignore your work, even if al you do is make coffee.
- At the end of your internship, thank your boss and your coworkers for the experience. You never know when/ you might need them again.