You thought once you had the internship you would stop worrying. The truth is, you are now more worried than before. You have a ton of questions: “What will I be doing? How do I get the most out of the summer? What should I do to differentiate myself? Will they like me?” Okay, maybe that last question isn’t going through your mind. It should though, and I will tell you why a little later
Let’s take the other questions first.
“What will I be doing?”
Well, hopefully, from a functional role and responsibilities standpoint you were able to get a sense of this during the interview process. If not, you do need to get those basic questions answered. There is still time to ask the recruiter or someone you have connected with at the company to get a better idea. You should ask for specifics if possible. Try to understand if you will be responsible for a defined set of tasks or outcomes. Will you be working in a team or fairly independently? Will you be able to have exposure to numerous business areas? Be prepared with questions that will help you gain the understanding you need to be as effective and successful as possible during your internship.
“How do I differentiate myself from other interns?”
A goal for most from their internship is to receive a full time offer at the end of the summer. To do this you not only have to do a stellar job but you also need to differentiate yourself from the others. To help understand what this takes; ask. Ask the recruiter; ask a mentor (which you should seek out immediately!); ask your supervisor. By asking multiple people you will get different perspectives which will all be helpful. Once you have their guidance you can go into action making sure you deliver against it. During the course of your internship you need to ask how you are performing. You need to assess your progress and your contributions several times over the course of the internship. Don’t wait to the end to potentially find out you missed something. There is no chance to course correct then. If you ask throughout the summer you can work to improve or strengthen certain areas. And ask at the end. Know where you stand before you pack up and head back to school.
“How do I get the most out of my experience over the summer?”
This is not only up to your employer but also you. You need to have a sense for what you need to learn, be exposed to, and walk away knowing more about. You need to think about how you will define success. Helping to define that can steer you to the actions you should take to make sure you can check on your “must haves”. Sure, your employer has expectations you need to meet. That is a given and you should never lose sight of that. However, you should have expectations too.
To get the most out of your experience, first and foremost, you need to be in the thick of things. You need to SHOW UP. And I don’t mean just physically come in on time and be in the right place. There is more to this than the status quo.
Are you trying to understand the company culture and how they treat their employees, their customers, their vendors? Then SHOW UP to every outing you can physically (and appropriately) attend. Go out for the company after hours get togethers. ASK for an invitation to a customer event or a vendor event. Treat it like you are “auditing the course”. If you are hoping to see how corporate decisions are made at a C level, talk to your supervisor or mentor and ASK if you might be able to attend a C level meeting. Granted this may be a little tricky, but asking with a clear description of why might just do the trick. Are you hoping to develop strong analytical skills then STEP FORWARD and ASK to take on a part of a project or shadow another project team member that has those responsibilities. Look for opportunities to do more and separate yourself from the pack.
You may be seeing a theme here. To really get the most out of your summer you need to show up, step forward, and ask.
And now the last question – “Will they like me?”
We don’t want to necessarily admit it but that is in our heads. Always. It is like the first day of school. You want to be liked. For your internship this is part of it as well. Companies will make offers to people they see themselves working with, that they like. There, I said it – don’t send the hate mail. In internships and in real life the secret here is the same. Building a broad network over the summer will help you be known by people at all levels and in many areas of the company. The more people that can speak to who you are (and not just your supervisor) and how you “fit” with the company will be helpful. Seek out people to connect with over lunches, coffee, or whatever works with your job. Be professional, do your job at the highest level, be helpful, be a team player, be respectful. It is the basics. Be someone you would want to hire and work with. It really is that simple.
Fast forward, you made it to the end of the summer and everything feels great. You think it was a successful foray into the business world and your supervisor and the company echo that with a full time offer. Congratulations!
You have the job (if you want it). Now what? More on that later.