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"I think the intern sleeping on our steps took "casual Friday" a bit too literally."

Don't Waste Your Internship

April 24, 2015

Your internship is a highly valuable resource that has the potential to jumpstart your career. Unfortunately, many college students waste their internship and never optimize what is likely their greatest career resource. You must make the most out of your internship if you’re looking to get ahead and improve your chance of earning employment upon graduation.

Take an internship that is related to your future career field 

Internships can be fiscally challenging, especially because some internships are unpaid. However, many now offer some sort of minimal compensation. Most students have financial concerns that could lead them to take an internship that is not necessarily in their career field, but offers some compensation than an internship within their desired field. Dana from ManpowerGroup offered these thoughts, 

“If the paid internship is wildly different from your intended profession, and you think it will throw your career too far off-course, then I would shy away from it, no matter how great the temptation to start paying off your school debt. If you can’t build up transferable skills and experiences that your dream job or company will ultimately value and reward, then it’s not the right path to take, unless financial considerations are great enough that you need to earn money immediately.”

It’s much better to take an internship that’s going to strengthen your experience and knowledge within your field. It may be possible for you to get a part time job late at night or during the weekends to help cover some of your expenses if you take an internship that doesn’t fully compensate you. While it would most certainly be an intense summer, it will set you up nicely for the future. Not to mention managing a hectic schedule successfully will impress hiring managers.

Pursue relationships with everyone in your department 

Your internship gives you access to not just a recruiter and mentor, but an entire department of people who you work with on a daily basis. This means you have an unbelievable network of individuals to connect with that may be willing to help you advance your career. Not only will those people in your department have a say in whether you should be offered a job at their company, they also may have contacts at other companies that could pay off for you as well. An expert from Fifth Third Bank, Emily, gave this insight, 

“Many internships are designed around providing exposure to an individual and give them an opportunity to learn in the "real world." This will likely include some networking or at least introductions to appropriate leaders in the company. The experience gained during an internship has many benefits - short and long-term.”

Always go the extra mile for the entire duration of your internship

There are usually some less than glamorous job requirements during your internship. This could include making hundreds copies, going on coffee runs, and setting up the conference room for a meeting. However, most of your responsibilities will be directly related to work you could be performing in the future. Be sure to make the most of every opportunity you have to ‘wow’ your supervisors and coworkers at your internship. And don't show discontent or frustration when you perform some of those menial tasks. You have to earn your place and most people have performed those same duties at some point in their career. Jessica from Cardinal Health offered these thoughts, 

“A goal of our internship program is to retain our top performing interns. These are interns who have gone “above and beyond” in their internship role and/or projects and have taken full advantage of all opportunities presented through the internship program. We find that these interns have a strong work ethic, are flexible, and have developed their leadership, communication and analytical skills. All of these characteristics are beneficial when transitioning to a full-time position.”

Your internship is a precious resource. If you steward it intelligently, you can reap benefits for years to come in your career. Make the most of the opportunity by setting yourself up for success by choosing the right internship. Then be sure to build relationships with your coworkers, and demonstrate your work ethic on a consistent basis. If you do this, your long summer of hard work for minimal pay may payoff into something much more.

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