While unpaid internships have become relatively commonplace, in many cases they shouldn’t be accepted by an intern. There are a number of things backing up this notion. For example, studies have shown that unpaid internships often make it harder to get a well-paid position after graduating.
And, of course, if you’ve already graduated and have financial obligations— student loans, rent, etc.— taking an unpaid or low-paying internship is an even tougher choice.
All in all, however, taking an internship can be right in many situations, as it can help you land a position at the company or in the industry that you desire. If done with a plan and strategy, it can help get you to where you want in your career.
Here are ways to help ensure you get a good position out of your internship, paid or unpaid.
Select the Right Internship
This is the most important factor. Don’t accept an internship where you won’t have a real workload from which you can learn. The classic secretary or coffee-running position will not cut it.
A consideration to take into mind if you intend to become full-time at the same firm: working at smaller companies can help you make an impact, making it more likely to get a full-time position.
Simple things here. Abide by the dress code. Don’t be late. Be professional and courteous to everyone you encounter.
Make sure you’re focused on the job, as this will demonstrate a strong work ethic. Don’t let your personal life interfere with your working life.
Make sure that you set clear goals and benchmarks for your work, even as an intern. From here, you will need to be able to back up your results.
Also, always make sure that you show enthusiasm and purpose in what you’re doing, no matter how small. You’ll likely be given more responsibility if you prove you can handle smaller projects and assignments.
Always Ask Questions
While some might think asking a bevy of questions comes off as being dependent and needy, it really signals a desire to understand and improve.
With this being said, don’t ask questions that are irrelevant or for which you should know the answer. This signals apathy, poor listening skills, and a lack of attentiveness.
Always carry a notepad or laptop around to take notes.
As an intern, you should be one of the first people to raise their hand if a supervisor asks for help.
Don’t feel like you should only try to help if work arises in your specific department. Showing that you’re willing and able to help in a number of different areas helps immensely when it comes to trying to get a full-time position.
Be a Part of the Team
Many offices hold company-or office-wide events. Attend these events whenever possible.
Also, make sure you network with everyone in the company. If you’re liked, your pathway to getting hired is much easier, simply because you have a number of people vouching for your hiring.
While you can be somewhat casual, make sure you aren’t too casual at company events. Remain professional.
Stay in Touch
When your internship ends, in many ways your future with the company is just beginning.
You will want to make sure that your contact with your internship doesn’t cease once the internship does. This particularly applies to students still enrolled in college.
You don’t need to do anything elaborate. Simply stay in touch via email, and even consider sending thank-you cards to your internship provider. This lets them know that you appreciated your time working with them.
Ultimately, you want to treat your internship as an interview— not only for the company that could potentially hire you, but for yourself. You need to see if it could be mutually beneficial.
Now go get that dream internship!