For many students, an internship is something they apply for without giving it much thought. It’s just something you do. But with some careful planning, an internship can shape your whole career and determine how successful it is.
An internship is, first and foremost, a chance to road-test the career you’re interested in. You’ll get a chance to see at first hand what is involved. Even if the work you are given to do is pretty routine, you’ll be able to observe more senior people and decide if it’s the kind of career you can see yourself in. If you like what you see, great – but even if you don’t, it’s useful to know at this stage so you don’t waste your post-grad years in a job you hate.
Many employers hire directly from their stock of interns, so this is your big chance to impress them and get a foot in the door. It’s worth making a big effort every day of your internship to show how competent you are. Make sure you’re smart, alert and engaged at all times – it’ll get noticed. And be sure to thank your employer at the end of the internship for the opportunity they gave you.
If your internship is successful, it should give you huge confidence when you start applying for jobs – even if they are in a different organisation. Knowing you’ve proved yourself should give you the edge over other applicants, and you may well have gained useful hands-on experience. And it’s not just you who will feel confident. If you have a decent internship under your belt, your prospective employer will know you can handle yourself in that environment.
You may decide to apply for a job in the organisation where you do your internship, but even if you don’t, the contacts you make during your internship could stand you in good stead in the future. You never know when you’ll come across them again.
So take your internship seriously. Think carefully about where you apply, work hard and stand out in a positive way. It could be the first step on the ladder to success.