Internships: for some it’s a golden bridge to their dream job, for others it’s just another way to fatten up their CVs and get yet another glowing recommendation. But for most, it’s a struggle, a long 2 or 3 months where you just work as hard as you can, yet we end up just like any other intern. No one remembers your name or how good you were. They just move on to the next one after they’re done with you.
It’s hard to stand out as the guy who made an impression, as the intern who was begged to stay after the end of his internship, or better yet, as the student who got an offer right on the spot from impressed executives. Yet, there are simple things that, if rightly implemented, can put you in the spotlight and may gain you the approval you want from your supervisors.
Don’t Stick To The Protocols
As an intern, you’re still new to the place, you don’t want to make a mess and you want to follow what you’re told to the letter. You go by the instructions and never fail to follow what’s on the guide book. If you’re asked to do something, you’d do it as told, and will not change the procedure even if there are easier ways to accomplish your task. Put it simply: You don’t want to screw up. Truth is, if you do things as they are usually done, you’ll be seen as interns are usually seen: a cheap labor that can do the menial tasks no one at the office wants to do. But if you take leadership and do things differently, better and faster, then you’ll make some heads turn. Instead of copy pasting those numbers in that Excel sheet, create a macro and automate the job. Instead of manually searching for names in different websites, code a small program to sweep through the sites and automatically save the data you want. If a task is long and tedious, chances are, there is another, better way to do it, and a simple search on google will usually show you how to go about it.
Don’t stick to the rules and the protocols just because that’s how things have always been done. If you want to be remembered, if you want to be the intern employers are impressed with, make them see how smart you are and how you can take the initiative to improve processes and make things more efficient.
It’s your first day of work, you’re all dressed up and sitting straight in your seat waiting to say “Yes sir” or “Yes ma’am”. From day one you are told what to do, how to dress, what to say and how to behave. Now I don’t blame you if you nod your head and do as they say, but if you want to make an impression, you have to show them that you’re not their average puppy willing to bring coffee and photocopy all day. You’re there to learn and to bring value, and you’re determined to make that happen. If your supervisor is a prick, make it clear to him. If you think something is not done right, speak your mind. If you feel there is inefficiency everywhere, show them how to do things better. You’re no one’s slave. You’re an ambitious, smart and driven intern, and you have to make them see you that way. So many interns end up hating their internships because they simply came across as the kind of guy who’s there to be exploited. Show them that you have a strong personality, that you don’t take No for an answer and that you don’t care if you’re the smartest guy in the room because you’re going to show it even if they think you’e out of line or a pretentious douchebag. Usually if you’re good at what you do and manage to point gaps in your supervisors’ work, someone higher up will notice and will see you as the best substitute for that supervisor.
Take Ownership of Your Internship
Internships are not only about the company you’re working at, they’re primarily about you. You’re interning because you want to learn something new, something you can’t access in class. You’re there to build a professional experience and enough workplace knowledge to hit the ground running when you join the workforce. How do you make that experience valuable? Take ownership of your own project. When you intern, you want to be working on something that is yours, something you can proudly say is mine. Something that you can look back when you finish your internship and be glad to see your footprint on. You don’t have to do what everyone else does. Copy pasting is something you can learn at home. Calling is something you can practice from your room. Emailing people is something you can do from your laptop while at starbucks. But heading a project? That my friend is what you should be aiming for. Start your own initiative during the internship, ask your supervisor to give you the lead on a specific project where you’re the main player. That way you have something to talk about in your next job interview, and you have the right skills to head teams and tasks in your future work environment. Projects teach you how to be all rounded, allowing you to polish different skills depending on what aspect of the project you’re working on. Moreover, working on your own thing will push you to think outside the box, be creative and responsible for your own deliverables.
Internships don’t have to be boring, mediocre and time consuming. They can be a real learning experience if you know how to approach them. Remember, you’re there to make an impression. You’re there to show them what you’re made of. You’re there to impress them and get them to beg you to stay. If that’s your attitude, then you’ll have a memorable experience and you’ll be the guy or the girl they will all remember.
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