If you’re looking to make yourself highly employable by the time you graduate, internships are a fantastic way to gain experience in specific sectors or with specific companies. Here are some great tips on what to expect as an intern, and how to get maximum value out of your internship!
When I first told my mum that I’d been chosen to do a 140-hour internship with a local publisher, her reaction was “Well done! Best get used to making them cuppas, ey?” And I’ll admit, I expected pretty much the same. Wasn’t that always the preconception people said? Oh, you’ll only be doing paperwork, coffee runs. Nothing that actually gives you proper experience.
Yes, in a few cases that might be true. VERY few. My experience so far has been nothing of the sort. I do light, breezy, 5-hour shifts – though many internships will have longer days than this.
My usual day goes like this:
7am: Wake up. Shower, get ready, have a good breakfast.
9am: Set off, walking there.
10am: Start the shift with a quick debriefing with one of the co-owners. It’s friendly and chatty, and I’m always open to discussing ways to push what is expected of me. Things I’ve done so far include:
- Proofreading a 200-page book
- Designing a cover for a WWII memoir book
- Drawing up marketing plans for a book promotion
- Designing a press release for a book due out later this year
12pm: The rough time I have a break. We’re free to get drinks whenever, this is a time I have for myself. It’s important to note that this won’t be this case with all internships – I’ve just been lucky.
3pm: This is when I finish, though I’ve sometimes finished later if the co-owner asks for my opinion on a cover or a marketing campaign. It can be something as small as asking for advice on a font choice, but it makes me feel respected. Any good internship will give you that feeling, so don’t be afraid to go and ask for extra bits of work.
And the only person I’ve made cuppas for so far is myself.
Internships are a great way to give you vital experience in a field you might be interested in, and an excellent way of establishing connections for the future; as well as this, you’ll improve so many key skills that’ll be handy later on. They might not always be paid, and there may be days where you feel like you should be paid, but just remember: if you get as much out of it as you can, you’ll finish up a much, much more employable person. And who knows? You may get the chance to turn your internship into a full-time job, or hold the offer for later on.
With that in mind, here are my tips for squeezing the most value out of your internship:
- Do research before and during the placement. Know the company you’re working for; know the programs they use and learn how to use them if you don’t already. An obvious willingness to learn and adapt is very attractive for any employer.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Do get to know people, do admit if you’re unsure of what you’re doing, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Finding a mentor within the company will help you settle in faster and make you feel at ease.
- At the same time, don’t shy away from the more… shitty tasks. It might be boring and a bit belittling, but employers will remember the intern that values flexibility and thorough experience over someone that’s too stubborn to bruise their ego. This isn’t to say that you should stand for being pushed around… just don’t be snobby about it.
And here are a few more tips to make you a super intern:
- Asking for feedback (throughout, not just after!)
- Socialising with other members of staff
- Show that you have a genuine interest in the job, and if you don’t, try to find something good you can gain from it and work with that
- Push your own boundaries
- Treat the internship as a real job, because one day it could be
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