Melissa Keeling • Jun 11, 2018
HOW TO MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR INTERNSHIP
You’ve got the internship, you're excited about working at the company, and you want to get as much out your internship as you can. Great! But how do you start off on the right foot with people you don't know in an environment that's totally different from a college classroom?
When I interned at DeveloperTown, demonstrating a helpful attitude and a willingness to learn helped make my internship a valuable learning experience and eventually led to a full-time job. Here's a quick look at what worked for me.
OFFER TO HELP YOUR COWORKERS
When you're not working on something, always offer to help, even if you don’t know what projects people are working on or whether you can actually help. Asking for work shows you're proactive, support your team, and are interested in getting things done. For example, whenever I completed my assigned tasks, I volunteered to help anyone who needed it via my team’s Slack channel.
Also, offer to help on an ongoing basis. Your coworkers may not need you the first time you ask, or the second, but they might the third time.
LEARN WORK-RELATED SKILLS DURING YOUR DOWNTIME
If you’re not being assigned many tasks, don’t get discouraged. Depending on the company, the type and volume of work will vary. You may not have tasks assigned because there aren’t any, not because your manager doesn’t think you’re capable.
For example, because DeveloperTown is a consulting company, some days during my internship are full of meetings and creating deliverables. However, on other days, I might be in a holding pattern as the team transitions between projects.
During your downtime, take the initiative to learn about the project you're on and any tools used to work on it. You’ll gain experience from each assigned task, but you can also learn more than you have to.
In meetings or conversations with coworkers, make a list of topics or tools that people mention and then learn all you can about them. Then you’ll be ahead of the game when assigned a task involving the tools.
During my internship, when I wasn't busy with assigned tasks, I learned to use the QuickTimerecording software to create a user guide video. When another employee asked me to help create a video using QuickTime, I was able to explain how to use all of the software tools, not just the features I used for my video.
ASK INFORMED QUESTIONS
You don't have to figure out everything on your own. Yes, doing research on your own is helpful and can show commitment, but spending too much time searching and coming up empty isn’t beneficial for anyone.
When you get stuck, go to the person who assigned you the task, share your understanding of the problem, share what you’ve found or tried so far, and ask them for help. Show that you put effort into figuring out the solution before asking for help and that you want to understand how to finish the task (or start, if that’s where you’re struggling).
For example, I was asked to create a process flow chart, but I’d never made one before. I created the diagram in Lucidchart as best I could before going to my manager to get feedback on how to present and complete the final product.
An internship is a great opportunity to demonstrate your abilities as well as develop them. Offer to help. Take the initiative to learn on your own. But also ask for guidance.
These tips aren't all inclusive, but they'll enhance your experience as an intern and help you in the job market. In my case, following these tips during my internship helped me land a full-time position at DeveloperTown.
Although not every internship can turn into a full-time job, following these tips can still help you can make connections, build references, and develop skills that will get you closer to changing your title from intern to employee.