How to Maximize Your First Internship

Landing your first internship is an exciting step in gaining experience in your career field. It can be a huge relief to get your first internship, but it can also be very stressful and nerve-racking. Working through my first internship, I tried to focus on five key things to help me maximize my time at C&A Industries.

  1. Come In With an Open Mind

Starting your first internship, it is nearly impossible to know what to expect. What is the company like? What am I going to be doing each day? These, and a laundry list of other questions, might be running through your head as you walk in on that first day and trust me, you aren’t the only one! It is good to be wondering those things, but I recommend just embracing the opportunity and being open to things as they arise. You have limited experience to relate back to, so removing any prior assumptions and worries you have will help maximize new experiences and opportunities that present themselves.

  1. Build Relationships

One of the best things you can do as a young professional is to build relationships. Even if you are a shy person, introduce yourself to one or two new people per week and by the end of your internship you will be surprised with how many people you have met. According to a survey done by LinkedIn in 2016, 85% of all jobs are filled by networking. Getting to know coworkers during an internship is a great way to start building that network. In addition, really get to know your manager. He or she can be a great reference for future opportunities. They also are a great resource during your internship to try new things and help you figure out what you really enjoy.

  1. Work Hard

There are many negative stereotypes about young professionals in the work place today. Prove those stereotypes wrong. Get that project turned in early, meet goals, and take on new opportunities. This will maximize what you can take away from just a short time at a company and could possibly lead to a future employment offer. A U.S. News article from 2015 references a study done by the National Association of Colleges and Employers. The article states, “65.4 percent of the class of 2014 who had completed a paid internship at a for-profit company received a job offer prior to graduation.” In addition, 39.5 percent of students who had an unpaid internship received a job offer. Really take advantage of the opportunity because, as this article illustrates, employers really are paying attention to how well their interns are performing. I have been able to use one of my managers as a reference for another internship opportunity because she has commended me on my hard work over the summer. Working hard is a great way to build connections during an internship or any job you might have during your career.

  1. Ask Questions

Ask questions, not just about job processes, but also about the culture and what it is like working there. Treat your internship like an extended interview. The company is getting to know you, but you are also getting to know the company. Ask as many questions as you can so that you truly feel like you know the company, that way if a full-time offer does come up, that decision will be much easier to make.

  1. Reflect on Your Experience

Don’t just leave your work at work. Reflect on what you have been doing lately and how the internship has been going. Do you enjoy what you’ve been working on? Are there other tasks you might enjoy more? Towards the end of the internship, it also gives you the chance to reflect and ask yourself, did I maximize my time at that company? Did I use the skills I currently have and did I develop some new ones? This reflection is very important moving forward because you now have a better understanding as to what you are looking for in a company and have experience to compare to when you are at your next internship.

During an internship, your time at that company is very limited. My hope is that focusing on these five things will help you maximize that short period of time and help you set up future employment opportunities. Are there any other strategies that you have used during an internship or during your career that you found to be successful to maximize your time at that company?

Written by Logan Lichter

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