Internships: an opportunity for students and trainees to learn and grow within an industry or profession through projects, networking, and experiential opportunities. Additionally, internships are an opportunity for employers to take someone under their wing, provide them with experience, and leave them with an acquired skill set that they’ll take on to their future jobs and careers.
As current interns, we view this opportunity as a learning experience. While internships ultimately provide valuable work experience to build and grow upon, they are also the opportunity to dive into a desired industry or field and see if it is the right one for you. Internships also give you time to work on meaningful projects, connect and network with colleagues, acquire new skills, and make many friends along the way.
During our journeys as interns, we have learned about the importance of experiential opportunities and are excited to share our advice and all the important insights we’ve learned throughout the summer.
1. Work on Meaningful Projects
According to Forbes, managers should view their interns with a long-term perspective. As a result, interns can be leveraged for more than the stereotypical “offloading tool”. Instead, interns should be there to help with the meaningful details and projects that ultimately enable a department and the company’s overall state.
The new ideas and fresh perspectives that interns bring to an organization can be immeasurably valuable to an organization. To really add fuel to our fire, it’s incredibly helpful to understand exactly how our work will add value to the organization. We’re new to your organization, and sometimes new to our chosen professions. For these reasons, it is vital that the projects being selected for us have a clearly communicated impact on the company while also offering a valuable learning experience for the intern completing the work.
When we work on meaningful projects that have a direct impact on a department’s daily operations, it not only helps us grow, but it also helps to instill the values of hard work and determination into completing a project successfully, knowing its importance and magnitude on the company.
2. Connect with Coworkers and Find Mentors
Interns gain many valuable benefits from experiencing work in a real-world setting, including the growth of their professional network. These critical professional connections will help us in the beginning and throughout our careers.
Although the course of an internship is limited in time, we can make the most of it by fostering many genuine and valuable connections with professionals in our field — either as mentors, peers, or both. These are connections that we can look back to in the future for career advice and potentially another job opportunity.
It’s important for interns to know that professional connections aren’t limited to mentorship from managers and executives. Meaningful connections with colleagues at every level are just as valuable. These coworkers, even as peers, have a wealth of knowledge to share with us and they can be instrumental allies in our professional and personal growth.
3. Make Valuable and Lasting Friendships
According to HuffPost, it is highlighted that there are three characteristics that can help interns naturally build lifelong connections with their peers: charm, optimism, and persistence. Creating friendships as an intern is beyond important for a number of different reasons.
It is essential to go through an internship and make the most out of your professional experiences, but making friendships throughout an internship is unique because it not only helps shape you to reach all of the goals you have from a professional aspect but also leaves you with a support system, genuine connections, and a more enjoyable workplace.
Creating these friendships through an internship builds valuable professional connections and helps us to create lifelong friends that we know we can count on inside and outside of work. Without these valuable friendships created with people who push us to succeed in ways we never thought possible, work would feel mundane to us and lack meaning in the day-to-day tasks.
The connections that we can make through the friendships of our fellow interns can follow us throughout our careers. Building upon these friendships allows us as interns to relate to one another personally, share common interests, and push each other to become better and achieve the various goals we have for our internship experiences.
Additionally, maintaining a healthy work-life balance is vital, especially with a real emphasis on the life portion. No working professional will be able to perform their best at work if their personal life is not in the best place it could be. Therefore, finding a group of people in the workplace, especially as an intern, who we can turn to in times of trouble and also lean on for support will definitely allow us to tilt the scale on the work-life balance in favor of creating great life outcomes.
4. Develop Your Skills
If an internship provides us with anything, it is a new toolbox of transferable skills that can be carried throughout our professional lives and future endeavors. Career Attraction recommends quickly identifying two to three skills that we didn’t already have at the start of our internship. As we develop these skills throughout, we’ll come out of our internships as more well-rounded and prepared professionals.
Internships are a great opportunity to try and learn new things through the experiences we have and the challenges we face. Depending on what department you work in and your role as an intern, there are usually learning and growth opportunities in various departments. As interns, we have the chance to sit in on meetings, shadow a colleague for the day, and discover other business operations throughout the course of the internship. This will give us a more complete view of the business and how our contributions fit into the high-level goals of the organization. As interns on the Public Relations team, we have specifically been given opportunities to learn from other departments and build our professional networks from the people we speak to and connect with.
Aligning your interests with business needs will help you find meaningful work — while also getting noticed in the process. If you’re interested in improving your public speaking skills, it might be helpful to ask to sit in on large group meetings where you can provide your input and brainstorm with the team when necessary. If you would like to learn more about writing press releases for the Public Relations team, ask to proofread and edit previous ones and then work your way up to attempting to write your own press release.
Overall, there are so many opportunities that an internship provides when it comes to skill-building. If you are passionate about learning and becoming a more experienced professional, taking the time to learn a few skills will provide valuable benefits not only for the duration of the internship but for the rest of your professional career.
Whether you’re building your professional network, developing skills that are applicable in the real world, strengthening your résumé with meaningful work, or making lasting connections with other interns, there are truly so many ways for us as interns to learn and grow throughout our experience.
It is essential going into an internship to keep an open mind and utilize all the fantastic opportunities offered through your experience. Although interns should take their jobs as seriously as if they are full-time employees, this is also the time to figure out precisely what it is we want to do with our career goals and the kinds of people that we hope to surround ourselves with in our career. Learn what areas of business and operations you’d like to pursue in the future and continue to embrace all the connections and friendships made throughout the process.
Keeping an open mind through this experience has allowed us to learn more than we ever imagined before starting, build amazing networks, and develop friendships that will last a lifetime outside of our internship. Overall, internships are one of the best opportunities to see what you like and don’t like, but also a chance to dive deep into your chosen field, learn how to make connections, build long-lasting friendships, and become a better professional.
As we are approaching the latter half of our summer internship, we are grateful to look back on the opportunities we have been given and the experiences we’ve had. We have worked closely with multiple teams, learned how to be better communicators, researched and presented ideas to team members and executives, and we’ve become better professionals in the process.
And looking forward, we are both excited to continue building on these relationships with the people we’ve worked with every day, as well as taking each opportunity as a learning experience. We will continue to ask questions, work with our peers and colleagues, build life-long connections with our coworkers, and provide meaningful and impactful results from each project we complete.