We all know that working towards your first degree can be a challenge in itself. Good grades are not enough to land that first job after graduation. Unfortunately, the same often goes for an impressive list of extracurricular activities. But there is one secret ingredient that absolutely helps: having at least one internship under your belt.
From now on, to benefit from all the advantages of an internship, it is not enough to present oneself. Some are only looking for the title and the possibility of adding another line to their CV. But others are looking for more. Do more, be more and leave an impact. But even with the second approach, there is still the question: what do you really get out of it? Apart from a checkpoint?
Well, there are three crucial things.
# 1 Networking
It is the most important. Building relationships with people in your professional field is one of the most important things you can do at all levels of your career. When you are just starting an internship you have the opportunity to start building that network and that can be pretty awesome.
It’s a rare opportunity to be surrounded by people actually working in your chosen field from the start of your career. So it’s important to try and speak to as many people as possible, ask them questions about how they got to where they are, and get applicable and proven advice. And listen! You will learn a huge amount of information in a very short time. Learn to listen and take good notes. In addition, there is always this chance to have more paid employment opportunities in the future if you make known your willingness to learn, work and contribute.
Whatever field expertise you gain through your internship, the longer-term benefits will likely come from the relationships you build while working there. My advice is not to avoid any type of group event that is open to employees, although it is not mandatory. And even if you are an introvert, don’t let that stop you. We are talking about your future here.
# 2 teamwork
It’s like any team sport. A team cannot win if teamwork is bad, even if individual performance is good. Your internship experience is not your college project where, let’s face it, sometimes one person did all the work and the grades were shared among others.
During the internship, you establish good work habits and learn to work in a team without focusing entirely on yourself. You also develop patience in situations where you disagree with one or more other team members and learn to explain your point of view and choose the right arguments.
# 3 Communication
You will learn how to build relationships with the people you work with. You will learn how to introduce yourself (it sounds simple, but it can be tricky), write a professional email, talk about your knowledge, interests and skills. Most importantly, you will learn to ask questions and to be concise and to the point in your communication with others. This will help you better understand the business and your role in the organization.
Communication is the key to success in a professional environment. Asking for help and clarification is always better than pretending that you have figured out what to do, no matter what.
However, if there is something you can do on Google, then do it. Avoiding asking questions if you can find answers elsewhere is part of a good communicator – keep in mind that everyone’s time is precious.
The truth is, there is an incredible amount of stuff you will learn during your internship. First, you will learn how to put your knowledge and skills into practice. Then simple things. Like the fact that enthusiasm is priceless! And you’ll also come to realize the benefits of asking and receiving feedback that will help you grow and excel in your career (and your life). If you’re lucky, you might even find a good mentor, someone who will guide you in your career and help you develop to your full potential.
However, the most valuable advice I can give you is don’t forget to have fun. Yes, networking is important. Yes, working hard can basically be described as the key to success. But internships should be fun. In my experience, when you’re happy to be there, others will notice and your passions will shine through.
–Sanja Gardašević is a brand consultant for Domain.ME, the international technology company that operates the Internet “.ME” domain, and encourages students to focus on ways they can stand out in the recruitment process by focusing on their online presence.