Dave Ellis is an original member of the YouTern team where serves as the Content and Community Manager, and enjoys his role as the company’s “Man Behind the Curtain”. In his spare time, Dave volunteers, rescuing and rehabilitating sea lions and baby elephant seals. Connect with Dave on LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter!
Do you know how to make good coffee? After your internship you’ll be a gourmet worthy of a top spot at any Starbucks.
That’s the internship stereotype of the past. An internship was often regarded as a peon position… a person on whom to dump your unwanted tedious projects and your errands. Now, I say “of the past” because in recent years interns have made strides into becoming recognized as valuable contributors and resources well above and beyond their photocopying skills.
An Intern is “Just an Intern”?
However, not absolutely everyone got that memo (off the photocopier). There are still some old-school types out there who think interns are merely at an entry level… of the entry level. Despite how times have changed, these dinosaurs still feel an intern is “just an intern”. In your internship, if you find yourself making coffee and copies… you either made a bad decision in the company where you chose to intern, or you’re making bad choices during your internship, letting your skills be overlooked.
In any internship, it’s up to you to get the most from the experience.
Make Your Own Position
An internship is no different than any other business position… to a large degree you can “make your own position.”
Granted, you’re an intern… you’re not an executive. You’re learning and gaining your first business experiences. But because you’re the “new kid” doesn’t mean you have nothing to contribute. Don’t just wait for assignments to come to you, or skate through your internship, counting the hours until 5 p.m. every day. Take it upon yourself to be a pro-active intern – and create your own position.
At every company one can identify inefficiencies in the business process. In your spare time at work, or on your own time, put together a project plan and present it to your supervisor. Detail your project’s goals and a timeline.
Create the Right Mindset
You’re not a coffee “go-fer”… so don’t think or act like one. Decide from day one that you are much more than “just an intern”. Sure, you’re the new kid on the block, and you don’t have as much experience as the executives around you. And you’re most likely the youngest person in the building. So, obviously some deference to the management is necessary. At the same time though, remember you were hired over all the other applicants for your internship. Your maturity, skills and professionalism were deemed assets to solving a problem the employer has. You earned a role at that company. Now, act like it.
You’re a Professional Now… Act Like One
Let other interns act like stereo-typical interns. Focus every day on making an impression and an impact during your internship. You’ll learn more, and will likely come away with a stellar recommendation… and maybe even a job offer!
Remember that your professionalism is being evaluated every single day. You may not even be aware of it but your job performance, your correspondence, your interactions with others, even the way you dress is being noted. Remind yourself of this every day before you head to the office. That means leave the flip-flops and the too-short skirt in the closet. Don’t complain about being bored – take initiative. And unless it’s part of your job, NO texting or social media at work – you were hired to work and you’re there to learn – not to socialize.
Your supervisor will use these evaluations to determine whether to hire you as a full-time employee at that company. Or they will form the basis of your recommendation for your next internship or job. How you perform and behave now, will directly impact your near future. You control your future – give yourself more options by working for the best possible evaluation.
Interns today have more choices – in terms of both companies and industries – in which to intern. And they have vastly more resources for finding internships than at any time in the past. No longer are you as restricted by age limits, geographic considerations, company sizes – or an outdated definition of what it is to be an intern.
At the same time, internships have become more important to getting that first real job than they have been in the past. They’re no longer a nice-to-have… internships are now basically a requirement to getting hired. In any internship you have a short window of opportunity to learn as much as you can to learn and make yourself a valuable candidate for any job opportunity. It’s up to you to take advantage of everything your internship can offer you.