By | Abhijit Bhaduri |Keynote speaker, Author and Columnist
Your internship opportunity can give you sharp clues about yourself that are priceless.
Often you’ll see restaurants offer a tasting menu, usually several dishes of small portions, with each bite-size course showcasing the chef’s skill. Now, imagine your internship as a tasting menu and you as the chef. While an internship is an opportunity for you to gain hands-on experience, it is also an opportunity for you to showcase a variety of your skills to the employer.
Why is this important? Some employers use internships as a means to discover people they may offer full-time employment to. You shouldn’t waste the opportunity to dip your toes into the world of work, make a great impression on the employer, and showcase your skills.
To make the most of your internship, here are 5 things every intern must do.
1. Have a positive mindset
People with positive mindsets are optimistic and energetic. They approach each day at work believing they will learn something new from every experience, and that will give them an advantage over those who don’t.
As an intern, you are coming in with limited or no work experience. People understand that you will not know everything, and therefore you will make mistakes. This can be stressful. But take chances and look at each mistake as an opportunity to learn. Research has shown that a positive mindset also helps you cope with stress effectively.
2. Ask for more responsibility
When you show initiative at work, such as by offering to help a colleague or filling in for someone, you are demonstrating an important workplace behavior—that is, collaboration skills and the ability to work with people. In the process, you are getting some bonus opportunities to learn. You can try out things beyond the scope of your project, and that could help you discover what you’re really passionate about.
I once had someone join me as an intern in the Learning and Development vertical. During her internship she discovered that she enjoyed developing content much more than actually delivering training sessions. The internship helped her to fine-tune her interests.
3. Show drive and energy
This is not the time to get comfortable with only what’s been assigned to you. Show some drive and be curious. This is a chance to learn from other employees in different roles across the organization.
Set up one-on-one meetings with people in your department or even in other departments. Understand their key deliverables and challenges. Ask them about the skills they need to be successful in their roles. Understand the business drivers and read up about the competitive landscape of the organization and its key competitors. You may want to share your learnings during a team catch-up to show you’re really keen and learning.
4. Take notes when you meet people
Taking notes has its benefits. It helps you to solidify your learning and insights as you meet various people in the organization. Digital devices may seem more convenient, but you end up multitasking during the meeting instead of really paying attention.
As an intern, soak up all the information you can; handwritten notes would be the best for that. Plus, if your memory is as bad as mine, then keeping a notebook handy is a good idea. I also find it useful to dictate my notes at the end of a meeting into my phone. It helps me track ideas I have heard about or the tasks I am committing to. Maintaining my habit of taking notes is a life skill that I have continued long after my internship! (That is a page from my notebook. Some days I use colors to brighten up the page)
5. Never eat alone
The network that you build as an intern can bring up new ideas, perspectives, and opportunities for you throughout your career. Coffee breaks are great to have short conversations with people in your team. Longer conversations are best done over lunch or dinner. Join the team get-togethers or company events when they arise. Stay in touch with the people you meet. Relationships are built over time and with great effort, so don’t make it transactional.