Summer is just around the corner. And that means summer vacations and for many students … that also means your first summer job or internship. Here are tips for how to make the most out of your summer internship. Who knows … this could be the first step to landing your dream job out of school.
1. Practice your introduction. You will meet people during the interview process, on Day 1 and every day forward. Use each moment as an opportunity to get comfortable relating to other people in a work environment. Make good eye contact; practice your handshake, good posture and SMILE.
2. Anticipate a bias about your age. You will probably be one of the youngest employees, so you want to be ready for the potential judgments that can arise. The best way to counteract stereotypes that may underestimate you is to be aware of them and be ready to SHINE and prove the exact opposite.
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3. Find mentors immediately. Co-workers, managers, colleagues … look around and find people who share similar values and whom you admire. It’s never too early to build a personal board of advisors … this will be your very own cheer squad, who will be there to help you navigate difficult decisions and explore your interests as you continue on with your career.
4. Find ways to go above and beyond. Be creative in what tasks you are given. If you finish a job early, ask for feedback or if your assistance is needed elsewhere. Plan a social or pot luck. There is always more to be done — you just have to think outside the box.
5. Have a strong work ethic. Don’t be texting your friend during work. Try to be as focused and invested in your work.
6. Honor your word and your work. Stick to your deadlines. Do what you are told to do. This is your time to make big mistakes, and own up to them. In the words of Oscar Wilde, “Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes.”
7. Connect and seek advice from your co-workers. Every person you meet has a connection that could help you later on down the road. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to get to know the people around you — what are their passions, their life mission, their hobbies, their goals … ask questions about their career path.
8. Work on your ” in person” personal brand. Depending on what kind of internship you are in, this could be an opportunity to explore a new sophisticated style in terms of your wardrobe. Practice defining your personal brand by what to wear to work everyday.
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9. Keep a career journal. This is not the “Dear Diary” version. Document what you are learning on the job, takeaways from conversations with leaders and co-workers, make notes about your ideas and things that inspire you at work or outside of your internship.
10. Get to know the company’s benefits while onsite. First priority is to exceed expectations and SHINE as an intern so that the company wants you back full time. But take advantage of the onsite access to human resource to gain a better understanding of what this company offers FT staff so you can reference this as a baseline when researching other opportunities in the future.
Commentary by Joan Kuhl, founder of consulting firm Why Millennials Matter and co-author of two books, including: “First Globals: Understanding, Managing & Unleashing the Potential of Our Millennial Generation.” Follow her on Twitter @joankuhl.