3 Ways to Turn your Internship into a Meaningful Experience

elevatorOut of clutter, find simplicity.”  – Albert Einstein

Internships in college and a year or so after college are a dime a dozen. As you probably know, some internships are great, while other opportunities are really just glorified slave labor. Notwithstanding, you can still turn any internship into an opportunity that works in your favor and enables you to get a good job in the future. It’s really all about how you approach it. No matter where you intern, you’ll have to be proactive. Here’s how:

1.     Ask for important work. Don’t wait for it.

Many former interns complain that they never did any meaningful work during their internship. While some internship programs are run pretty poorly, the reason that you aren’t doing the important stuff is because it’s often illegal. If you are an unpaid intern, companies are not allowed to give you work that substantially contributes to the company’s profits. At the same time, however, you can ask for work that’s meaningful. For example, a friend of mine once interned with a general interest magazine. Most of the interns were given meaningless errands to run. My friend, however, chatted with the food blogger during lunch and they got to know each other. My friend stepped up to the plate and asked if she could work with her every once in a while. Before she knew it, she was writing guest food columns every other week!

2.     If anything, leave with a mentor.

The value of internship goes far beyond learning specific skills. Think of it as a networking opportunity. What every soon-to-graduate student needs is a mentor in the working world. Most established professionals in any industry are more than willing to help you develop your own career. Of course, finding a mentor through your internship is not as easy as just saying, “Will you be my mentor?” It’s about making acquaintances, chatting people up, and putting yourself out there. It’s about building relationships.

3.     Be grateful and stay in touch.

Of course, you want to stay in touch with your mentor for the rest of your career. But make contacts within the organization for which you are working and keep in touch. Send handwritten, very personal thank you notes after leaving your internship. They did, after all, provide you with a career-building experience. Gratitude and communication go a very long way once you’re out there trying to find a job in the future. More than just that, it’s the right thing to do.

Of course, sometimes, no matter how hard you try, your internship might be something of a bust. But if you approach it with the right attitude, you’d be surprised by the rewards you might reap later. Good luck!

Lauren Bailey is a freelance blogger who loves writing about education, new technology, career advice, lifestyle, and health. As an education writer, she works to provide helpful information on the best colleges and college experiences. She welcomes your comments and questions via email at blauren 99 @gmail.com.

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