So now, you’re an intern. You’re not quite drawing the salary of a working adult yet, but you’re a lot more experienced than a student now. You were close to the top of the food chain in your school, but right now you’re at the bottom of the pile in terms of occupational hierarchy. What’s more, this may very well be your first stint in your industry, and you don’t want to blow it.
But there’s a reason it’s an internship. It’s meant to be part of your education, and so you should treat as a learning experience. It might not have the structure and formalisation of lectures and tutorials, but that doesn’t mean you can’t pick up a few valuable skills that will be very useful in your career.
1) Making A Good First Impression
In all likelihood, you probably did give a good first impression at your internship interview. But now you have to give that same good first impression to everyone you work with. You’ll only be there for a few months, so whatever impression people make of you is going to stick, and you’re not going to have the luxury of time to change it.
Learn how to give an elevator pitch (a concise summary of who you are and what you do), how to engage people (sometimes, talking about the weather is perfectly acceptable), and most importantly, how to sell yourself (why should someone even spend time talking to you). You can Google all this, sure, but your internship is the best time to practice and hone those skills. These are the soft skills that will land you a job, give you that raise, and bring you that promotion when you’re working full-time – so why not practice it now?
Now that you’ve made a good first impression, it’s time to nurture that relationship and relearn the art of soc
ialising. You’re not just making friends now – you’re making contacts. These aren’t people you’ll necessarily hang out with, but they aren’t exactly acquaintances either. These are professional relationships that are built upon on a commercial basis instead of a social one, opening up opportunities that you wouldn’t have access to otherwise.
This doesn’t mean that your contacts can’t be your friends, though. Some of your contacts may well end up becoming your closest friends. Most of them won’t, and you’ll meet them only during corporate settings.
These contacts will be able to offer you far more than you can offer them. So leverage on your youth, your energy, and your adaptability as your selling points.
3)Dealing With Difficult People
And then you’ll meet difficult people, who aren’t just dispensing your grades anymore, but dispensing your paycheck. They aren’t always bosses, but co-workers or even subordinates. But you have to learn how to address the issues and conflicts that come with the workplace, because they are inevitable.
Most importantly, don’t take it personally, and don’t take your work conflicts home with you. Leave them in the workplace where they belong, and draw a line between your personal and professional lives. There are many strategies of dealing with less than pleasant colleagues, but most neglect to mention that you shouldn’t bring these burdens back home with you.
4) Time Management And Priorities
Even as a student, you’ve had to learn how to juggle multiple modules, extra-curricular activities, and parties. But now there’s the added element of commercialisation – your time is literally worth money, both to the company and to yourself. Deadlines are no longer as comfortable (or flexible) as before, and you will have to make sacrifices and learn that
done is better than perfect.
Pick up some productivity frameworks and test them out, like GTD, time boxing or working in spurts. Just like with making first impressions, this is the time to test out what’s the best way to manage your time and figure out how to make yourself work more efficiently.
Read also: 10 Tips To Increase Productivity At Work
5) Your Working Style
Learning what makes you the most productive is just one aspect of your working style. If you don’t already know it, your internship is the best time for self-discovery to determine how you work. What motivates you? What type of work do you like? What type of work are you good at? You’ll be surprised to find that you’re not always good at the things you like, but if you can learn to like the things you’re good at, then you’re one of the lucky few.
Your working style will determine what kind of company you’ll best suited for, and consequently whether you’ll be in for the long haul. Can you deal with tight deadlines? Cope with grey areas of professional ethics? Live with irregular working hours?
6) Industry Standards And Practices
This goes without saying. One day in a workplace can teach you more than one year in the classroom. Pick up the jargon and learn the software, because one day you’re going to be member of the workforce in that industry.
Study the expectations and what industry professionals look out for in the deliverables. The average Joe won’t have the trained eye that someone in the line will have, and you’ll need to develop exactly that to be able to identify quality.
7) Business Processes And Workflows
This doesn’t necessarily mean accounting (unless you’re an accountant) but rather, how things work in your profession. There is always a supply chain, the system that creates the products or services in your trade, and knowing where you stand in that supply chain is very valuable.
It might seem more like management level issues, but it will help better understand the expectations and deadlines levied upon your full-time co-workers, and also know where to troubleshoot when things aren’t moving.
8) Companies And People To Avoid
You’re most probably going to pick up some names of organisations and individuals that you should avoid, for whatever reason – they aren’t good paymasters, they don’t deliver quality work, or they cut too many corners. Remember them, as these are the people who could very well exploit you when you’re a fresh graduate.
You might still want to give them a chance though, it may just be a misunderstanding that was blown out of proportion. But information is power, and trust your gut feel. If something feels wrong, it probably is.
9) Companies And People To Look Out For
Conversely, there will be places and people that are highly revered and sought after. And if you haven’t been around in the trade long enough, they aren’t going to be easily recognisable if you come across them. So keep in mind those names, so that if the opportunity arises, you’ll know who you’re talking to, even long after your internship is over.
This will be the time to put all that practice at making a good impression into play.
10) Making Coffee
I can’t emphasise this enough. You need to learn how to make a good cup of coffee, or where to buy some when you need to. You will need to do this at least once in your intern life, so pick it up now. Whether it’s the difference between an Americano and flat white, or a kopi-o and a kopi siu tai, make the effort to learn, remember, and practice it.
Above all, be professional at your internship. It’s the closest chance you’ll get to working without requiring as many qualifications and certifications, and also your best chance at a getting a good job before you graduate.