Getting an internship and making the best of it

The fastest way to make your CV stand out is to do an internship, but the benefits don’t stop there. By interning, you not only gain professional skills, but also gather insight into a particular industry or organizational culture, and establish connections that might lead to a job.

Internships are training and testing ground for potential new employees, however before diving into the first internship you’re offered, make sure you have investigated all your options. Internships vary widely in the amount of pay or academic credit offered, the type of supervision and mentoring you receive, the length of time you are expected to work, and the amount of learning you will do.

Paid vs Unpaid
The majority of paid internships are found in the world of big business. Consulting, investment banking, commercial banking, accounting, information technology, venture capital, entertainment, and marketing offer some of the highest paying internships. Profession industry such as entertainment and book publishing tend not to pay much if at all because so many people are clamouring to get in the door.

For those of you who are completely turned off at the thought of working for nothing, there are some alternatives.

Increasingly, organizations are realizing that although some students are motivated by pay checks, many just want enough income to cover basic necessities. In response, much traditionally unpaid internship now comes with one-time stipends to help students defray their costs of living.

Even if you are not paid for these internships, you’ll get connections, training, and an understanding of the field that makes the lack of pay less significant.

Keys to internship success:

Set Personal Goals. You need to spend some time before you start the internship setting goals that you want to accomplish. Maybe it’s deciding on what area within marketing that you want to specialize, or learning new skills, or building your network. Whatever your goals, you will feel a greater sense of accomplishment once you achieve them.

Have Regular Meetings with your Supervisor(s). Sound obvious? Well, maybe, but you may get a supervisor who never schedules meetings with you or travels quite a bit, so you have to make sure to have regular meetings where you can share experiences and lessons learned — both good and bad — as well as give progress reports.

Avoid Negativity. The quickest way to kill a good internship is being negative. So, avoid complaining, being rude, disrespecting co-workers, arriving late, leaving early, being closed-minded, missing deadlines, appearing arrogant, wearing improper attire, acting unprofessionally, appearing inflexible, and taking part in office politics.

Don’t be Afraid to Ask Questions. Always remember that an internship is a learning experience for you. While the employer expects to get a certain level of work from you, you are not expected to know everything. Seek advice and raise questions whenever you encounter something that is not familiar to you.

Take Initiative. Employers love employees who dive into tackling tough problems and who think “outside the box” in finding solutions. Just make sure you work with your supervisor(s) so you don’t overstep your authority.

Find a Mentor. A mentor is someone at a higher level in the organization that looks out for you and makes sure you are learning what you need to know and accomplishing what you need to do.

Network, Network, Network. One of the key tools of job-hunting is utilizing your network to find your next career step, whether another internship or a job upon graduation (and beyond). Build professional relationships with your supervisor(s) and other managers in the organization.

Enjoy Yourself. Most internships are great experiences, so make sure you have some fun while you’re working and learning. Even if you have a bad experience on an internship, never burn your bridges because you never know when it could come back and hurt you. Always leave on good terms.

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