Making the Most of your Internship Experience

Mariam Ameha, student, George Mason University  |  October 21, 2022 in Pearson Students

Two college interns sitting on an office couch looking at a laptop screen.

You finished applying, got through the interview process, and have received your acceptance letter. Now what? Preparing for an internship can be stressful, especially if it's your first time completing one. Whether your goal is to secure a full-time return offer or you want to gauge a feel for a new industry, an internship is a valuable experience and time for growth. It can be difficult to adjust for someone who has little-to-no experience in a professional setting. This is why it's important to form strategies that can be applied throughout the experience to build your skills and make you a more confident college student as you prepare for your career. Here are four ways to be successful as an intern and leave a lasting impact.

1. Set goals

Prior to starting your internship, you should think about what you want to learn during your time there. Once you connect with your manager, you should set more role-specific goals to measure your success. And it does not end there. Many people forget to review and note if they’re actually hitting their goals until the end of the internship, which can lead to added stress. Try checking in weekly or bi-weekly and listing your achievements somewhere, using a journal, for example. This will be very helpful as you recap what you’ve accomplished during midpoint or final evaluations! Keeping notes on what you have done will also be invaluable when writing a resume because you’ll want to include specific details and log any metrics that show your impact.

2. Self-Advocate

In any job, you will learn that actively seeking opportunities is the best way to get them. If there are specific projects that catch your eye, ask if you can be involved and do anything to help out. Although you are an intern, your time is just as important as others’ time at the organization, so be realistic about what you can handle in terms of workload. One common mistake made by interns is not following up after asking for something, in fear of bothering busy people. However, if you make a request to someone and do not get a response, kindly follow up after waiting an appropriate amount of time. Chances are that the initial request just slipped through the cracks!

3. Be receptive to all feedback

As an intern, you may receive both positive and negative feedback. Feedback is a gift, so try to remain open-minded to constructive criticism from your manager or other colleagues. You are there to learn, so put your best foot forward and ask how you can do better in your role. Once you receive this information, make sure to actively work on your weaknesses so you can show improvement by the end of the program. Being an intern does not mean you are not allowed to also share feedback. Communicate with your manager and respectfully let them know if you are missing tools needed to help you be successful, because they cannot read your mind! This will also show your initiative and leadership, as you are stepping up and have the ability to improve the program for future interns.

4. Build your network!

You may get caught up in a routine of working solo on your computer but remember that your internship time is limited. This is a valuable time to build your connections and get to know different people at your company. Even if someone is not in your team or specific department, you can learn about various areas of interest and potentially find something that aligns more with your goals. Find a good balance between your usual workload and networking. To avoid burnout, you can set a goal of speaking to a certain amount of people a week. During my summer internship this year, I aimed to connect with 1-2 new people weekly, and set up meetings to ask questions and learn about various departments. This led to many new connections and more clarity about my career goals. If you are in a cohort of interns, take this time to form long-lasting relationships and socialize! This can be through coffee chats (especially if your internship is virtual) or asking to grab lunch together at the office. Take advantage of company-wide social events as well, since this will let you mingle with people you otherwise would not cross paths with through your day-to-day work.

Internships can fly by, and you want to be able to look back at the end and feel confident that you did the best that you could. Plan ahead, ask questions, and conquer your internship!

Do you have a compelling story or student success tips you’d like to see published on the Pearson Students blog?  If you are a college student and interested in writing for us – click here to pitch your idea and get started!