How to Make the Most of an Internship
Want to have an internship that leads to your next job? Follow these 8 tips.
Internships help you gain professional experience while you’re still in school. But your approach to the job can make the difference between a line on a resume and a launching pad to future success. Here, four students at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas, share what they’ve learned from their internships — and how to make your internship work for you.
“Don’t let the requirements on paper influence you,” says Rosemond Crown, an intern with the KXAN investigative team. Candidates for that internship were asked to have broadcast journalism experience, but Crown applied despite only having written for the campus newspaper, Hilltop Views. With a strong recommendation, she got the job.
Veronica Puente applied for an internship arranged by the Hispanic Association of College and Universities, which said its program would prioritize business majors and those in STEM fields. An English major, Puente highlighted her marketing and communication skills and writing classes she’d taken, like Technical Business Communication. “A lot of people don’t realize all the business skills that are within the English major,” she says. She got the position.
While her career goal is broadcast journalism, Crown’s first internship was with a research and advocacy group that influences public policy in Texas. “That’s not really journalism, but I took it because I knew it would lead me to something else,” she says. “Never turn down an internship because it’s not exactly in your field, because it could lead to more opportunities.”
You may learn more from the leaders you work for than from the tasks you complete, says Alan Chapa, who has interned at VisionEdge Marketing and DaVincian Healthcare. He remembers noticing how his boss interacted with clients and shifted conversations in the direction she wanted them to go. “Those are subtle things that you don’t pick up by writing a report. You pick up by watching someone,” he says.
“It’s a chance to test yourself and see how you compare to current employees,” Chapa says. If you focus on identifying the skills you need to develop while you’re still in school, you’ll be a much stronger candidate for positions when you graduate and hit the job market.
“And don’t be afraid to be the person who occasionally brings in kolaches or donuts,” says Andrew Low, who saw a colleague take these extra steps when he interned at the Charles Schwab Research and Development department last summer.
The skills you learn are important, but so are the relationships you form. “I got to meet 30 people my age this summer, and we’re all connected on LinkedIn,” says Low. “If I’m ever looking for a job or need to make a connection for a company I’m working for, I know 30 people I can contact who started out the same place I did.”
It can be intimidating to work with professionals who’ve been in the field for years, “but they know you’re there to learn and gain experience, so it’s okay if you don’t know everything,” says Crown. This is your chance to ask questions. “When I’m feeling intimidated by someone’s expertise, I try to turn it into a goal,” Crown says. “I remind myself that I want to get to the point where I know as much as this person does.”
Learn more about how St. Edward’s University prepares students for internships that provide meaningful experience — and future jobs.
Robyn Ross is a freelance writer.