I focused my attention one more time on the words speeding by on the screen located above the train door to reassure myself that “El Barrial” was the next stop. If I missed it, I would be late to the first day of my internship.
I was a junior in college interning with a documentary film company in Madrid, Spain. After the first week of transcribing endless hours of interviews, it was clear that I didn’t want to spend my entire semester sitting in front of a television screen—with my headphones on—typing dialogue. If I was going to make the most of my internship, changes would have to be made.
There are definitely ways to get more out of your internship experience. Here are seven tips to consider:
- Set Reach Goals: What are the top three to five specific goals you want to accomplish? “Getting more on-the-job experience” is too broad and may leave you making coffee and copies for the duration of your internship. If you don’t know what you want, others will decide for you. Push slightly to achieve beyond what others may expect and to ensure you perform to full potential. Keep goals in mind to continuously move you forward with clear direction. Then, take the next step by communicating those goals with your internship supervisor to increase your chances of being assigned projects that are aligned with your goals.
- Work with Strengths: The bulk of the projects you are completing should, to the extent possible, match your strengths, with the opportunity to learn new skills along the way. Identifying your strengths is the first step to customizing your internship experience. What are you good at? When interns underperform, it’s commonly because they are assigned work that plays to their weaknesses rather than to strengths. This situation is perpetuated if you fail to communicate goals or there’s a gap between perceived and actual strengths.
- Seek Advice & Feedback: Your co-workers are often the best resource to learn about the organization’s culture and “best practices” to work more efficiently. The sum of this knowledge can position you for success. Plan times to meet with your supervisor or co-workers regularly to ask for feedback. They will appreciate your initiative to continuously improve.
- Collaborate & Network: It is important that you don’t work in a silo. Find ways to partner with your coworkers on projects. This will provide excellent mentorship opportunities, but also allow you to build relationships that may translate into letters of recommendation or even job offers. Show a genuine interest to learn more about the profession through your co-workers’ eyes.
- Build Trust: Understand that like any type of relationship, you have to earn the trust of your supervisor and co-workers. You were selected for the internship for a good reason; now, you just have to show that you are willing to be a strong contributor to the organization’s work. Trust will come naturally if you follow the previous tips.
- Increase Role: With time, seek new opportunities to go more in-depth with your current responsibilities, or expand the role you play in the organization. Internships provide an excellent platform to explore different areas, so take advantage.
- Deliver Results: At the end of a solid internship, you should have tangible results to showcase your contributions to the organization. On your resume, the fact that you “observed the producer edit videos” will not be nearly as strong as stating that you “pitched ideas for an upcoming documentary.”