Why do we apply for internships? Do they really mold us into more competent professionals, or just tick another box for that all-important CV? What do we ultimately stand to gain from them? We’ve all heard the jokes and clichés; many of us have even experienced those tragic hours of being a glorified tea-runner. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. If you find the right opportunity and commit to making the most of it, you might just surprised what you can achieve, and how much you can benefit moving forward.
During my first two years of university, I was often frustrated by my seeming inability to settle on a potential career path – something I’m sure many of my fellow arts students out there can relate to. Even after an enjoyable work placement in Communications with an electricity and gas company in 2013, I wasn’t wholly convinced that this was the career path for me. However, when I was invited to come back as a full-time intern last summer, I decided to bite the bullet and give it another go.
In this role I was trusted to take on a number of important tasks independently, despite my relative inexperience. Working as part of a team that was limited in size but certainly not in its number of projects, it was simply never an option to have my hand held through the placement. This pressure to step up and seize responsibility really brought out the best in me, and made me aware of a number of professional skills I hadn’t previously realized I had. By the same token, it also highlighted the areas I need to improve. I now have a much stronger sense of where I want to take my career.
Furthermore, the benefits of my time with the company went far beyond a professional context. As a somewhat shy and reserved individual, the nature of a significant role in Communications was naturally somewhat daunting at first, given the expectation placed on me to keep cooperating directly with a number of very senior people. Nonetheless, I slowly but surely began to edge out of my shell and assert myself. This, along with the positive feedback I received from my manager and colleagues, left me feeling far more self-confident as a person than I ever have done before.
If there’s one resounding lesson I took away, it’s that an internship really is what you make of it. From one Exeter student to another, here are my five key pieces of advice to turn a good internship experience into a great one:
- Don’t just ‘do the job’. Finish tasks as quickly and to as high a standard as you possibly can.
- Once your immediate tasks are complete, look for further work to get involved in. Whether more work is available to you or not, at the very least you will have demonstrated a proactive and enthusiastic approach.
- Keep asking questions – about the company, the industry as a whole, related careers, and any relevant qualifications that might help you achieve your goals.
- Aim to build relationships with your colleagues. Not only will this improve the experience for you and them, but with their experience in a specialist field they may just be able to help you out further down the line.
- Most importantly, seek out frequent feedback from your manager, and find out what you need to do to improve.
So, what’s stopping you? Get out there and give it a go!