Learn from Smart Women

Learn from bSmart Members

You did it—you secured a killer internship for the summer, and you’re ready to show up to your first day of work.  No more lifeguarding, waitressing, or bussing tables.  You’re ready for the big leagues.

Internships are vital ways for anyone to learn about what a job entails. What’s the day-to-day like?  What’s the company culture?  What does a person with that job title actually do?

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The value of your internship goes well beyond the summer. Keep these tips in mind to make the most out of your time:

1) Get To Know Everyone

When you start a new role, it can be intimidating to try and learn what you’re doing and learn everyone’s name. Whether or not you consider yourself an extrovert, take the time to get to know everyone, not just your immediate team members.

When you arrive, send out individual emails to your team introducing yourself, your school, and what you’ll be doing on the team. Ask each person to coffee for a get-to-know-you-meeting. Ask them about their families, their hobbies, how they got to their role today, and who else you should meet.  Most importantly, understand what it is they do every day and what their role entails.  Even if you’re a marketing major, you might not realize that a marketing manager deals with search engine optimization, writes blog posts, and manages all of the social media handles.

From there, include on your to-do list a name of someone to have coffee with each week during your internship.  Think about what you care about and what you want to learn—and find the people that do those things.  Don’t be intimidated by titles, but do be respectful of their time; schedule meetings for no more than 30 minutes.

This makes your job a whole lot easier and can give you the knowledge you need to find your next internship.  Projects move forward based on who you know, not what you know, and you’re playing catchup on your team.  Make a lasting impression and a human connection with the people you’re spending the summer with.

2) Build On That Human Connection

Once you know everyone’s names, start to really get to know your co-workers as people.  No matter how boring the work can get (and let’s face it, some internships can get pretty boring) you have the ability to make connections.

That means staying off your phone, even if your fingers start to itch.  That means staying late and coming in early.  You’re a hotshot swinging into view for only a few months, but for your temporary colleagues, it can be a disruption to their daily routine.  You’re fighting constant media stereotypes about millennials—the ‘me me me’ generation—so you have to get to work.  Make it so that disruption is a positive one.

3) Always Ask ‘What’s Next?’

In college, you have ebbs and flows of homework.  Sometimes, during finals, you’re not sure how you’ll have time to sleep or eat.  Other times, you can have a social life and sleep and get your work done.  It’s the same at work.  Sometimes, you have to work late or early or all the time to get something out the door.  Other times, you’re looking at your watch and your empty inbox and completely organized cubicle pondering when to make your exit.

Understand these balances and find work to fill them. If you have spare time, and after you’ve cleared it with your boss, reach out to someone else (that you met over coffee) and ask them, ‘What’s next? What can I take off your plate?’

Think about what you want to know and learn, the people that do those things (those that you met over coffee) and ask to help on those projects or shadow a meeting or two.  Even if there’s no room for you to help on something specific, you’ll learn what skills you need to to get there someday.

4) Ask For A Recommendation Before You Leave

As the summer draws to a close, don’t forget why you’re really there—your resume. Whether you’re thinking of heading on to grad school or a major consulting firm after graduation, ask for recommendations from several of your colleagues on LinkedIn. If you don’t have a LinkedIn profile, you should start one before you complete your internship! Update your resume with your projects and ask your manager to look it over.  They can help you articulate your impact.

That said, make sure you’re asking the right people for those recommendations. Who did you help the most during the summer?  Who did you ‘gel’ with?  Don’t be afraid to ask for one from a fellow intern, especially if you did a project together.

Along with your recommendations, ask for feedback from anyone you worked with: what did you do well?  What should you work on?  What role would be the best fit for you if you were to be hired on full-time?  Debrief with your manager or your extended team so that you can start the school year knowing exactly what you need to work on for your ‘real world’ skills.

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You’re fighting constant media stereotypes about millennials—the “me me me” generation—so you have to get to work.

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 5) Say Thank You!

Most importantly, say thank you.  Even if you made copies and got coffee and hated every minute of it, your internship will pay off as you start to look for jobs after graduation.  Thank your manager and anyone else who took you under their wing with handwritten thank you notes or small gifts.

A little thank you goes a long way.  It makes a lasting impression and cements your connection to others—and it’s the right thing to do.  Who knows?  You might help land your best friend an internship there next summer, or turn a one-time gig into a permanent position post-grad.

 

Kayla Lewkowicz hails from the small town of Hopkinton, MA, home of the Boston Marathon. A digital marketer by day and freelance writer by night, she's a passionate storyteller, reader, hiker, swimmer, runner, and eater. When she's not furiously typing on her laptop, she's probably at the gym or on top of a mountain dreaming of her next giant bowl of pasta. Like what she has to say? Subscribe to her blog or say hello on Twitter @kllewkow.

 

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