During the final few years of college, most students require enrollment in an internship program to satisfy graduation requirements. Sometimes internship programs happen during the school year while other internship programs might be a full-time experience during the summer.
Internship programs traditionally pay the student nothing or provide minimal repayment on expenses such as lunch and mileage. Nobody likes working for free, so finding a fun or valuable internship program should make the experience bearable. The following tips should make any internship a worthwhile and helpful experience.
1. Don’t complain
The intern gets stuck with all the boring administrative tasks and busywork that isn’t required of regular employees. An intern might not even get to participate in any projects related to his or her major, and simply observing employees at work in an industry is often all an intern will get as far as “experience” goes. It’s important to avoid complaining.
2. Don’t create work
Even if an intern doesn’t have any specific project for the day, such as making copies or getting coffee for the managers, it’s vital to eliminate the need for employees to babysit the intern. Those employees have work to do, and leading an intern every step of the way creates extra work for those paid workers.
3. Use the opportunity to network
An intern might be stuck answering the phones all day, but that shouldn’t be his or her only project. Identifying valuable contacts during the internship and participating in basic networking is the true value of the experience and is often more serious than the school credit granted.
4. Dress appropriately
Some internships offer the opportunity for casual dress while other experiences might require a formal approach to attire. If an office requires professional clothing, an intern probably doesn’t require an expensive suit, but the attire chosen should be as formal as possible with respect to a student’s current wardrobe.
5. Learn names and hierarchy
When an intern must operate as the receptionist for the company or when an intern must take calls for a particular manager or executive, it’s a good idea to know the names of everyone with whom an intern might come into contact during the day. Knowing the names of telecommuters or important employees in other offices also helps.
6. Be smart and ask questions
Most interns aren’t expected to know how the company operates, and each business has certain tasks that are performed in a specific way. This means an intern needs to ask questions if any confusion exists as to the proper method for performing tasks.
An internship doesn’t have to be a drag, or a tiresome experience where the only thing of value earned is a high degree of knowledge in copier operation and maintenance. The employees of a company with which a student interns have the opportunity to foist the mundane clerical work off on someone else. Even if the employees aren’t visibly grateful for this service, an intern who is willing to put in those hours performing basic tasks is a valuable asset to a company.