Whether you recently finished your first year of university or graduated this past spring, at some point or another you will be getting work experience in your field of choice via an internship program or summer work experience. Internships are the entry-point to your career and give you skills that translate to your future educational and professional endeavors.
Being an intern is all about learning and for some, this means doing things you may never have dreamed of – but remember, nothing is beneath you. Even if that’s not what you went to school for- even menial tasks are learning experiences. In fact, maybe even ask if you can take some time to shadow another department, you will be surprised at what you can relate to your education. When assigned a task or task list, let it absorb before jumping right in. This will let you digest your task and you will start to have questions. Asking questions is fine, your manager will understand – everyone started somewhere and most as interns. And sometimes busy managers forget what they didn’t know as new employees.
Check-in with your supervisor. You could be assigned a list of things to do on a Monday morning and your supervisor will move on with their tasks and forget to check on your status of completion. Show independence by sending a quick email every second day. “I’ve finished the research on events in Nova Scotia; I started searching for opportunities on how we can communicate what we have to offer. Maybe we can discuss my research later this week.” Just a short, quick email to show your progress should be fine, unless otherwise directed.
Act professionally, make sure you show-up on time and try not to miss days or be late. That being said, life happens and you could need a day off, try to pre-plan. When leaving for the day try to make a habit of checking with your supervisor that there is nothing else they need before you leave – it’s a nice gesture. Appropriate dress is something that might not be mentioned but take a mental note of this along with other organization culture during your first few days. If in doubt, ask.
Organizational culture is the collective behavior of humans that are part of an organization; it is also formed by the organization values, visions, norms, working language, systems and symbols.
Remember, there is a fine line between professionalism and friendship. Always be aware of how you present yourself and the content of conversations you bring forth. Basically, just keep things professional.
Communication is key; I’m sure you’ve heard that a lot by now, and you have for a reason. During your internship, you should be listening more than talking. It might not feel quite like school, but you are still learning. Ask a lot of questions about what you’re working on and what processes are normally followed. Ask for feedback, take that feedback and use it in your daily procedures.
Document your internship and make business contacts with coworkers by connecting on LinkedIn. Never go to your internship without a paper and pen in hand. Take a quick minute to document your daily tasks, something new you learned or a tool that helped you complete a task with ease. Internships are a privilege, whether you are being paid or not.
Give us your feedback below, whether a manager who would like to give advice or an intern who would like to share experiences.
Here's what some local professionals have to say about their experiences with interns:
"Find a way to challenge yourself. If you want to make the best of your time, try to find new and innovative ways you can help your employer get things done faster or better." - Dan Hooper, Lead Developer - Marcato Digital Solutions Inc.
In my business, I've had the opportunity to work with a number of interns and have mixed results. I think interns have to remember that businesspeople are focused on running their business and serving their clients, which means that sometimes they don't have the time to dedicate to working as closely with interns as they would like. I've experienced cases where interns completed everything on their task list, but I was not able to get back to them right away to give them more direction or feedback. This can either be a time to sit back and take it easy until given their next task or the intern can seize this situation as a time to shine!" - Terry Smith, Owner - Icon.
"Make the most out of your experience instead of sitting back and letting the time go by. Get involved in as many work related projects as you can. Observe the different departments in your work place and understand how they work together and separately. When you return to school these work experiences are valuable because you can apply the knowledge you have learned or have a different perspective on a situation." - Alison Giovannetti, Business Manager - Marcato Digital Solutions Inc.