An internship is an opportunity to learn about business culture and advance your skill set. If you approach it with an open mind and eagerness, you’ll gain a lot.
Whether you’ve had an internship before or you’re trying to secure your first one, know that every internship is different. The culture of every office is different, but it’s important to see first-hand what are generally acceptable best practices.
Remember that all experiences can be worthwhile – good and bad – because the real world has a mix of both. You may find that you don’t like a particular part of your chosen field while interning. You gained valuable insight that you can use in the future to find something more tailored to what you want to do. Certainly you’ll take away positives from the job as well, including new skills, new mentors and new possibilities for the future. Take to heart all of the experiences you’re given in an internship.
I often get asked what qualities we’re looking for in an intern. Three important traits we’re looking for include:
1. Willingness to complete work as assigned
Not every assignment you do as an intern is “fun.” Understand not all the work I do in a day, or that my co-workers do in a day is “fun.” We do the work that is needed to get the job done. I will explain this to potential applicants and watch their reaction and response.
Any of the interns I’ve managed know this phrase now by heart because I say it all the time. “The assignment I’m giving you isn’t fun and I know it. However, it’s important because it’s part of a bigger picture of something we’re doing. It’s important to me, so please do it.” To which, I’ve always received these (and all) assignments on time and done with great effort from any intern I’ve managed.
2. Ability to self-start
I need to hear concrete examples of how a potential intern has been a self-starter in the past. Unfortunately, no one has time to baby-sit you as an intern. As you start to understand our process and tackle different assignments, I expect that you’ll be able to find something of value to do if someone isn’t able to give you a new assignment right now. I recommend coming to an interview prepared to answer questions around this topic.
3. Desire for this internship
It’s really not a good idea to apply for an internship for the sole reason that your professor passed it along to you. Research the requirements, take a look at the company’s online presence and ask around for friends who might have interned there in the past. Then ask yourself if this opportunity sounds right to you and if you really want it.
I can immediately tell if you have any passion for this opportunity. It’s also obvious when I ask in almost every interview if you’ve looked at our website and what stood out and you can’t answer the question. A little prep work and a lot of desire can go a long way.