Adding value to your internship means that you'll take more from it when you leave. You'll learn more skills and hopefully taking the initiative means that the business will be more likely to employ you or contact you when they've got a job vacancy that's suitable by showing yourself off in a good light.
9 Ways to add value to your internship
1. Find a mentor
Finding a good mentor will help you to understand the industry in more depth, as well as office politics and what goes on behind the scene. He or she can help you navigate your way through the company, helping you understand both what you need to both ahead and what to avoid in the process.
After a few weeks into your internship if there’s someone in the organisation you get on well with and that you respect and admire, why not ask them whether they would be willing to mentor you during your time in the company. You'll feel as though you’ve got someone to trust and talk to if you get into difficulties, while they will probably be flattered you asked! On occasion you can see whether you can take them out for lunch or for a coffee so they get to know you on a personal basis and in time they will become part of your professional network.
2. Bring questions
Before you start your internship come up with a number of questions you might want to ask your employer. At the beginning, these might involve more logistical things, such as when should you go for your lunch and at what points do you need to check in with your line manager. However, along the way, make sure you ask any questions you might have about your internship including those which directly affect you and the process of the organisation at large. Coming along with questions shows that you care about your position and responsibility and that you want to learn from your internship and improve your performance along the way.
3. Use your knowledge
As a young person, you've got a lot to offer companies you go into, especially if the average age of their audience is twenty years older than you! You might be able to provide them with technical knowledge, for example in web design or photo editing, social media knowledge or knowledge of different markets which may be relevant for them and that long-term employees lack. You can also teach fellow employees a few tricks to make their lives easier, for example how to use web packages to create professional presentations or how to use online platforms to plan and organise social media feeds. Bringing immediate and obvious value to the organisation will give your boss a positive impression of you and hopefully they'll be more likely to think of you when it comes to hiring.
4. Recognise what you want out of your experience
You might have landed yourself the perfect internship with exactly the right experience you need to gain your first full-time job, or you may have landed something vaguely related, but not quite all you hoped for. Either way, an internship is a great way to gain new skills and experience. Look at what you're already good at and list those that you want to develop, whether it's problem-solving, negotiating, working in a team, or something more specific. If you feel there is an opportunity to develop a useful skill, although it's not part of your job description, ask your line manager whether you could jump in at the deep end, for example phoning international clients, presenting the company's latest findings, or taking minutes in a meeting. Having gained these skills you can take them to prospective employers with examples of real projects and outcomes you've completed or contributed to, whilst even recognising what you want to gain can show future employers that you can take initiative and are a go-getter.
5. Keep an internship diary
Keeping and sticking to a diary can be tough, however, writing down everything you want to gain before you start your internship and your milestones along the way can prove a very useful exercise. Looking back on a diary can show you how you've developed, improved and gained confidence throughout your experience, and this increase in self-esteem can really help you sell yourself when you are looking for a full-time job or in your future career when things aren't quite going your way. Writing things down can also consolidate your understanding of the industry and whether it's a job for you. A diary can also help you think about what qualities make you a good employee and what your strengths are, which can help you focus on your career path.
6. Make connections
You never know who you are going to meet, where their lives are going to go, and how you fit in, and it may be that you'll meet someone tomorrow whom you'll create a business with ten years down the line. Increasing your social circle will certainly give you more opportunities in the future. Spend a bit of time getting to know people through social events at work, for example, drinks and dinners. You might also want to connect with other interns in the office - especially if you don't work closely with them you could agree to meet once a week and go out to lunch together to discuss your experiences.
7. Find a project
Ask your line manager whether there's any current project that will take a couple of weeks to complete that you could do. Having a project will give you something that you'll have ownership over, and show off your ability in your teamwork, leadership, organisation and project management skills. It will give you something to talk about when it comes to interviews as well as the satisfaction of having completed the task to a high standard.
8. Pretend you're an employee
Ok, you're an intern, but act as though you have a vested interest in the company and you are not going to be leaving three months down the line. Dress the part and communicate professionally. When you do leave, if employers contact you, return their emails and calls as it means that you're still interested in them. You never know, they may be offering you that first full-time job!
9. Take initiative
As a new recruit, you are not going to know everything, however, be willing to learn whatever challenge you may find yourself in. If you have no formal goals, let your line manager know that you would like to have some short-term and long-term goals in place so that you can be given increasingly complex work and measure your impact and contribution. Volunteer for projects even if it may mean staying in late to get the job done so that you can make a positive impact.