Worst kept secret about internships? They're about more than just a line on your resume. Internships are about networking, connections, and the impression you leave behind.
And yet—the internship itself won't take care of these things for you.
So, whether you're managing a social channel or tackling a major business problem, you'll have another, parallel job: get in as much valuable face time with co-workers and soak in as much information as possible during your internship.
To do it right, you'll need a plan of attack. Here are tips to help you begin plotting your success.
Figure Out Your End Game
Another secret about internships? They don't always lead to jobs. For better or worse, some internships are designed to fill real gaps in labor with a rotating cast of college students who do the work eagerly. Others, often those at big companies, are true pipelines for new hires, and the internship may as well be an extended job interview.
That's not to say that one scenario is better than the other. But, it is important to identify whether there are full-time opportunities at the end of the tunnel because it may influence how you approach the experience.
If job prospects are dim, your goal should be to absorb as much as you can from everyone around you—ask people about their jobs, whether they like them or not and why, the ways different departments function, and what projects people are working on. Aim to learn as much as you can while leaving a great impression. You never know where those connections will lead, or whether a job will open up later on.
On the contrary, if your plan is to land a job offer, your focus should be on becoming an invaluable member of the team and producing your best work. And remember to take time to build relationships with the people who do the hiring, in addition to those you work with directly.
Plot Your Charm Offensive
Regardless of your end game, a huge part of the internship is going to be networking. Every workplace is different so you'll need to figure out how often you can ask people out for coffee or a drink. It may be once a week or once a month depending on the office environment.
Make a point of getting full-timers out of the office on a regular basis and find a way to hold yourself accountable to it. Ask them where they came from, what they do, whether they like it, and why. In turn, fill them in on your hopes and dreams. They may be able to help you or know someone who can.
Remember to ask about office networking norms before getting too friendly. Your boss or employees newer to the team may be able to advise on protocol for how to best execute your networking offensive. Let them know your intentions and ask for guidance on the appropriate way to reach out to people.
Talk to Your Boss About Projects
There may be a host of projects or a full-on job function awaiting you in your internship, or it may be a bit more hands-off, and be up to you to find work. Either way, figure out what tasks are assigned to you early on or who to speak with if you are unclear on your duties.
Make a point of working on a few things that are above and beyond the typical job function of an intern. Ask your boss how to find projects to work on, and whether he/she is aware of anything you can help with. Be willing to take on any tasks, even menial ones. You're there to learn, but you're also there to help and add value.
Ask Thoughtful Questions
Many people mistake inquisitiveness with weakness. Don't be one of those people! Keep in mind that you're an intern and questions are not only expected, but welcomed.
Asking questions helps you learn your role, your surroundings, and the industry. It also helps your boss to better advise you and assess the support you need. The more thoughtful the questions, the better, so do some research to find out what's trending in your area. For example, if you're at a big software company, what's happening with technology transfers in China? If it's retail, what's the strategy to lure back customers who abandon their cart at check-out?
Make sure you have time to check-in with your supervisor to go over your questions. Ask your boss if he or she has a few minutes to put on their schedule once a week to touch base. Use the information you glean to make yourself more aware and, in return, helpful in the office.
Whatever You Do, Don't Become Another Anonymous Intern
Finally, friendships are important, but they're not more important than getting max ROI on your internship experience. So while some interns may only talk to other interns, don't fall into that habit. Make sure you take advantage of your time by connecting with as many different people as possible.
And make sure those connections don't go to waste once your internship is over. Following the tips above should give you plenty of runway to develop an exit plan that will leave you on solid footing with your contacts. When your internship is over, send goodbye emails thanking co-workers for their time and ask things like, "Can I reach out to you if I see any opportunities down the line?" And, "If you're open to it, I'd love to grab coffee in a few months to catch up."
You'll thank yourself later for keeping in touch. Their reference may be just what you need to translate your internship into a full-time job.
TopicsNetworking , FremantleMedia North America , Internships , Finding a Job , Getting Ahead , Work Relationships , Job Search
Photo of co-workers talking courtesy of Thomas Barwick/Getty Images.
As a branded content editor at The Muse, Jennifer helps brands tell their stories. Newly based in Kansas City, when she's not out exploring and sampling BBQ, you can find her at home reading and perfecting her pasta sauce.More from this Author
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