If you are studying at a high school or University, or if you’re fresh out of college, chances are high that your next internship might be right around the corner. An internship always provides an exciting opportunity to learn more about a certain profession or workplace but it also demands efforts from your side to get the most out of your time.
Perhaps you might wonder what to expect from an internship and what to pay attention to? Then you are at the right place! In the following, I will share the top tips and tricks that I find most valuable.
1. Outline your goals and discover your motivation
One of the first things you should do when you are about to start an internship is to get clear on your intentions.
Why should you care about this? – It’s simple. The attitude you take towards any given situation is crucial. It influences the thoughts and beliefs that emerge. These thoughts and beliefs in turn influence your behavior.
Consider the following example: If you start your day while thinking that you would rather do something else with your time than sitting in this office all day, chances are high that you will be not as attentive, miss out on a lot of opportunities to pick up new things and to develop your skills.
On the other hand, if you start every day with the anticipation that this day might bring you a lot of new insight and you will be able to learn a lot of new things you will be much more attentive to what is going on around you.
So, to get the most out of your internship you should know your motivations and aims.
Take a moment and ask yourself the following questions:
- What is my motivation behind doing this internship?
- What do I expect from this internship?
- What do I want to learn?
- What skills do I want to improve?
2. Do your homework
Always do some research before you start your internship. Take some time and do good research about the company and industry you will be working for. Having answers to the questions that Experis has provided will make you feel prepared and much more confident when starting your internship.
Knowing the company you are working for is essential. However, knowing the people in this company is just as important – maybe even more. Identify the most important people, the decision-makers, such as the CEO, department heads, supervisors and managers, but also your colleagues in the company.
If you want to gain a significant advantage, get into detective mode and use your Google and LinkedIn skills to get a grasp on their field of expertise, interests, and their passions. When called upon at the right moment, a question or remark about your supervisor’s field of interest can give you quite some extra sympathy points.
3. Set yourself goals
To ensure that you get the most out of your internship and acquire valuable skills and knowledge, setting yourself clear goals is key.
The scientific evidence on the effect on goal setting is clear. By setting ourselves clear goals, our brain is much more likely to perceive things in our environment that help us to achieve those goals by directing our attention towards it.
Think back to a time you thought of buying a new phone, laptop, watch, or new shoes. During this time you might have noticed that you start seeing all the people around you having a laptop, a watch, or shoes.
The same goes for your internship. You will be surprised how much the right mindset and clear goals will positively affect your day. You will be much more likely to perceive and take advantage of all the small opportunities and changes that come your way throughout your day.
Some of the goals that might be worth considering can be found in this list created by Indeed. When setting your goals try to be as specific as possible and recall it every morning before you start working.
4. Remember: Everyone can be your teacher
Your main task during your time as an intern is to learn from others through careful observation. This succeeds best if you always keep in mind that everyone can teach you something.
Knowing that everyone you meet has something to teach you broadens your attention and creates a lot of opportunities to learn something new.
Pay attention to the people around you and ask yourself: What can I learn from this person? Try to identify the qualities you find desirable in them and write them down.
The following questions may help you:
- What behavior of this person do I not like?
- How can I learn from their bad behavior, so that I don’t make those same mistakes with other people?
You may also encounter characteristics that you find less appealing. Notice them as well, as particularly these characteristics can teach you what you don’t want to be and what you would like to do differently.
5. Ask questions – lots of them
I think we all agree that the purpose of an internship is to gain as much knowledge and insight as possible into a profession you are interested in. Besides that, you also want to develop your skills.
So what is the best way to go about it?
The answer is simple: ask questions – and ask lots of them. Do not be afraid that asking too many questions leaves a bad impression. Think of questions that show your curiosity and motivation and that help you to develop further. By asking questions you will show your employer that you are motivated and eager to learn. Most importantly, however, do not forget to actually listen to the answers.
6. Remember names
One thing Fort Minor already knew in 2005: remembering the names of your peers is one of the best ways to build new relationships. Research has confirmed that most people really appreciate it if you show them that you know their names – it demonstrates that you are genuinely interested and respect that person.
Here are five steps that you can follow:
1. Pay attention
Take the time and really pay attention to the person you are talking to. Often we are so distracted by thinking of something else that we forget to truly focus our attention and listen. From now on when you are being introduced to someone ask yourself, ‘What’s’ their name?′
2. Repeat the name
Try to repeat the name of a person as early in the conversation and as often as possible. Ideally, you want to repeat the name back to them while shaking his or her hand. Every time you repeat a new name, it will help you remember it.
3. Focus on a particular feature of the person
You remember what you see more than what you hear. Pick the most distinguishing or outstanding feature of a person you notice. This can be a facial feature or something general in the appearance of the other. Then visually connect the name to the unique aspect of the person’s look.
For example, you meet a woman who has her hair up in a big bun and her name is Beatrice. Image how the B of Beatrice sits in the bun and moves up and down. The crazier the image the better it will stick. Still, be careful with the level of craziness – you never know if you will ever get that image out of your head.
4. Review the name at the end of the day
At the end of the day sit down and ask yourself: Who did I meet today? By going over the names again, new names will be stored in your memory in no time.
5. Link the new name with something you already know
Does the name of the person remind you of something or someone? Connecting the name to anything you already know will make remembering the name much easier.
7. Give honest and sincere appreciation to the people around you
In our everyday life, we pay a great deal of attention to what we don’t like about others or what others do wrong, but rarely we compliment the people around us on what they are doing right.
One of the most basic principles when it comes to human relations is this: every person wants to feel accepted, validated, and seen as an important member of society.
Therefore, start by giving honest and sincere appreciation to the people around you. If someone does something particularly well in your eyes or you notice a certain quality in someone that you find remarkable or admirable – let them know! However, always be honest with your praise for false praise is quickly recognized.
Bonus: Reflect on your impressions and what you have learned
If you want to get the most out of your internship and create lasting improvements in your skills and performance, write a report or at least take some time for reflection. By doing so, you will keep track of your progress and it will let you know how much you have grown in the time of your internship.
Take some time at the end of each day and reflect on what you have learned. You also may want to read up on things that caught your curiosity.
Sometimes your internship is a compulsory part of your studies. In this case you probably have clear guidelines for the structure of your internship report. However, if you have some leeway in the design of your report or if you just need a simple and good template, then have a look at this template I have created for you.
Now go out there and be the best intern the world has ever seen!