If you are trying to land a job in a specialized field, at some point, you will likely be presented with the opportunity to participate in an internship program. When that day comes, we want you to be at the top of your game.
In lieu of Anne Hathaway, we spoke with Nicole Picton, the owner and founder of Precisely Careers, to find out exactly what you can do (and potentially avoid doing) to make a great impression during your internship. Now a Certified Talent Management Practitioner (CTMP) and Certified Human Resources Professional (CHRP), Picton started her business by helping fellow recent graduates revise their resumes and gain the knowledge they needed to thrive in today’s work environment.
Not sure where to start? We got that covered! Follow along as we run through 10 things you must do to make a great impression as an intern.
Get active on LinkedIn
If you are only starting to hunt for internships, Picton recommends networking on employment-focused social media sites like LinkedIn. By following companies you admire, you can get a sense of their workplace culture and values. Following, connecting and meaningfully engaging with people that work for the companies you aspire to work for will also give you more insight into possible opportunities.
By building professional connections with people that work at your preferred organizations, Picton says you can eventually approach someone with your interest in participating in their internship program. Getting to know the organization’s culture as well as some of the people that work there will also let you know whether or not it is the right fit for you.
Recounting her personal experience as an operations intern in a quaint office in Nova Scotia, Picton says the experience taught her “how to do a lot of work with fewer resources.” Ultimately, if you are motivated to get the work done, a little pressure can spark your creativity.
Picton also underscores “the benefits of working in a small market for a big company,” saying, “that allows you to go to a big market very quickly because you learn all of the skills you need.”
Use the experience you’ve got
Picton cautions interns to frame their experience favourably when they get to crafting their resumes. Without embellishing, Picton suggests interns clearly outline their projects and/or activities and use any alternative titles they might have had rather than the term “intern” when describing the position on their resume.
Talk to your peers
Asking them about their experiences as interns might offer you some new insights, and it could open doors for future opportunities. At the very least, hearing about other people’s experiences allows you to learn vicariously, through their experiences, while building relationships with your peers.
Don’t fear failure
Picton encourages interns to challenge themselves to take on new and possibly intimidating projects even if the tasks required of them might be slightly outside their comfort zone. Still, Picton says interns should reach out when they are truly stuck. When it comes time to showcase their work, she encourages interns to explain their thought process and request constructive feedback.
“If you get assigned a project that makes you feel as though it's outside your skillset, I want your first thought to be: ‘This is something that I haven't done before. But let me try it out,’” Picton coaches. “You can pretty much recover from everything, like a mistake is not the end of the world or your career.”
Picton says that something can be assimilated from the worst of experiences and that we are best to focus our attention on the lesson rather than who is right or wrong in a given situation: ”If you have a manager who micromanages you, you at least learn, you know, ‘when I get to that point in my career, I do not want to be that kind of manager.’”
Picton prompts us to ask ourselves: “How can you apply what they're saying to make you better?”
Communicate your desires
“If you're trying to secure a position at that company, from day one, you need to start building those connections,” Picton says. “So, you know, at month three, when your internship is ending, you could start a conversation about a full-time position.”
Learn to take quality notes
Though the jury is still out on whether or not it is best to take notes on paper, note-taking in any capacity has been correlated with improved information-processing and achievement. If nothing else, good note-taking practices help with active listening, greater overall comprehension and information retention. Those are all skills your future employer will undoubtedly appreciate.
Make use of your manager’s time
The career coach suggests using your own curiosity to build a rapport with your manager because, as she learned in journalism school, “people love to talk about themselves.” Picton encourages interns to start by asking their internship supervisor about their professional journey as a way to break the ice.
Be on time (no, seriously)
A 2018 study, published in the Journal of Physics: Conference Series, identified a positive correlation between effective time management practices and academic achievement. Needless to say, showing up on time truly matters. On a fundamental level, punctuality shows your employer that you are living in integrity with your personal and professional commitments.
One final piece of advice for prospective interns: If — in the context of an internship — you have to take the New York City subway in the middle of July, do not forget to pack deodorant, or your editors might pull you aside to have a chat. And if they do, you will survive that conversation. Trust me.