If you’re just starting to look for an internship, you may be wondering about the best things to focus on. Whether it’s a paid or unpaid internship, the true value comes from what you put into it. And that starts with finding an internship that’s worth your while in more ways than one.
Here are the 10 things you should look for in an internship.
1. A chance to separate yourself from the pack
Look at your next internship as an opportunity to distance yourself from your peers. Imagine the next career fair you attend and imagine what you would like to share with the recruiter in front of you about how you spent your summer (or fall or spring) semester. Think about the experience and the skill set you will gain that will build your professional brand.
2. An opportunity to figure out what kind of career you want
One of the key parts of an internship is getting to experience a specific role or industry so that you can decide whether it’s something you want to pursue after graduation. When picking an internship, look for one that offers you a truly hands-on experience. This will allow you to make well-informed decisions down the line and find the career path that works best for you.
3. A chance to work with smart and motivated people
If you can thrive off the energy of others around you, you’ll naturally work harder and enjoy what you’re doing. By finding an internship at a company where employees are excited to come to work every day, you’ll naturally have a more enjoyable experience and will be more likely to choose a similarly positive work culture in the next phase of your career.
4. Access to mentors you can learn from
As you navigate what you’re looking to do professionally, it’s important to have mentors that you can rely on who will help you navigate the work environment you choose. Look for opportunities that have a built-in support system for interns to access higher level executives. Not only will this increase the exposure you get within the organization, but you will learn from people who have been working in the business or the industry with an expert-level understanding.
5. The chance to experience a new city
If you have the option, leverage your internship experience as a chance to explore a new city! This will help pull you out of your comfort zone of being on campus or at home for the summer.
6. The opportunity to add new tools to your toolbox
Sharpening what you’re learning in your classes and actually applying it is key. However, try to pick up other skills that your professors aren’t necessarily teaching you. Identify programs or tools that are relevant in your industry and become an expert at them. Not only will you make yourself more marketable after the internship, you’ll set yourself apart as the “fast-learner” who is looking to add value fast!
7. A way to test what you’ve learned
Validate your interest in the industry you’ve chosen by test driving what you’ve learned. Ask yourself if this is something you could see yourself doing for the long-haul and take the opportunity to explore different paths within your chosen profession. Internships are a great opportunity to get exposure to a potential career path without having to choose it for the long-run. Take this time to get a better understanding of what you like most.
8. A chance to identify with a culture that reflects your values
Find an internship that offers an environment that aligns with what matters most to you in a workplace. If you’re looking for summer Fridays (i.e. leaving the office on Friday at 2 p.m.), or you’re looking to work 100 hours per week, understand what the company values and what’s expected for the business.
9. An opportunity to work on projects that matter
One key goal coming out of your internship should be the ability to say how you were able to make an impact. Having the opportunity to work on real-world projects is key, and a killer thing to tout in your next interview. Understand the types of projects that interns have worked on in the past and what you might expect to work on during your time in the program. You can also gauge what kind of opportunity you’ll have to work on other side projects. Go into the internship with the goal of making the greatest impact you can make. This will help you walk away as the superstar for the summer and leave will you with a potential job offer after the internship is over.
10. A way to earn an income
Although money shouldn’t be the only deciding factor when it comes to picking an internship, it’s definitely something to keep in mind, particularly if you need an income to support yourself during the school year or the summer.
Getting work experience before graduation is certainly important, but you want to make sure that the internship you choose will benefit you in more ways than one. By following these tips, you’ll find an internship that’s right for you.
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