This is a guest post by Sarah Fundin. Sarah Fudin currently works in community relations for University of Southern California’s online master degree programs. USC Rossier Online and MSW@USC provide the opportunity to earn an Online Masters in Education as well as offer online MSW programs.  Outside of work Sarah enjoys running, reading and Pinkberry frozen yogurt.

Internships are more than just summer jobs. They’re not ways to pass the time between semesters, and they’re not just paychecks. Internships are gateways: They offer opportunities you cannot get elsewhere. They let you learn and work at the same time so you can explore your options for the future. If you are considering a certain career, an internship gives you the invaluable experience necessary to determine whether you love something or should seriously reevaluate things.

Most importantly, internships build bridges and connect you with professionals you can reach out to when you’re ready to begin working. Internships are about self-discovery, networking and professional development, and the following six tips will help you get all that you can out of your internship:

1. Learn from Your Internship

Everybody has different aspirations for their internships, and your search should be geared towards your personal goal. Whatever your goal, look for an internship that helps you meet it. Always search in a field that interests you. Be passionate about the work so it becomes more than a job, so that it becomes a learning experience.

Some people chose a specific internship to learn more about something they already know or to further develop their skills. Others are adventurous, so they explore various options. Even if you dislike your internship, understand that it is still a valuable experience. As long as you go in with the intent of learning, you will get something out of it.

2. Make an Impression

Your interview was your first impression, but that was the easy part. Now that you’re in the door, you’ve got a chance to really make an impression. Don’t be content with showing up to work and leaving without actively contributing. One of the reasons companies hire interns is to gain a fresh perspective. They want to hear your ideas and engage with you, so make your voice heard.

If you ask insightful questions and offer ideas, you demonstrate your capabilities much more than if you were a face at a desk. Making an impression does not just engage with your coworkers on another level, it makes them remember you, which can pay off in the long run. You could be asked back next summer, and, in some cases, employers consider former interns for permanent jobs.

3. Connect with Your Coworkers

It’s important to really know the people you work with. Think of your coworkers as your teachers: These are the professionals in the field who can tell you the most about it from a practical standpoint and help you learn the ropes. You’ll learn the most from friendly collaboration.

Go to lunch with your coworkers, and, whenever possible, attend social events they go to as a group. If you form amiable professional relationships, then once the summer is over, keep in touch. This comes in handy if the company asks you back, and if you ever need a contact in your future job search.

4. Take Advantage of Company Resources

As an intern, you may have access to the company’s professional development or networking resources. While all of these opportunities may not be open to interns, look into all of them to see which ones you can participate in. Some companies offer classes or professional development seminars to train and educate their employees on specific topics.

Company meetings are great because they give you a chance to meet people from other departments and maybe even from other companies, so there is the potential for networking. Companies care about helping their employees become the best at their jobs, and chances are they’d offer similar opportunities to their interns.

5. Get to Know the Other Interns

Some places just hire one intern per summer, but many hire multiple interns, and it’s a good idea to connect with them. You can learn a lot from other people who are in the same position as you but who come from different backgrounds. Becoming familiar with the other interns helps foster a friendly working environment, and it can also offer other possibilities. For example, if someone’s previous internship was in an area that interests you, they can connect you with the people they worked for before. You should take advantage of any opportunity to network. Also, collaborating with fellow interns and working as a team demonstrates interpersonal skills.

6. Gain an Inside Perspective

Use your internship as an opportunity to learn more about the job market so that when you begin working, you can strengthen your applications with an inside perspective. Because you’ve already gotten the internship, you’ve got an idea of what worked for you. But once you’re inside, you can talk to your coworkers and supervisors about what they look for in job applicants and what factors help them make their decisions.

Learn about the ways employers use social media to weed through applicants and maybe even get advice on your resume and interviewing skills. This is especially useful if you are interning in the field you want to work, because it gives you a feel for how to really impress future employers.



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