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The Reality of Internships: How to Get the Most Out of Them

Whether you’re about to graduate, planning for graduation, or just thinking ahead, an internship can be a big part of your process. Sometimes getting an internship or know how to succeed in one can feel overwhelming, intimidating, and stressful. However, an internship can be an incredibly rewarding experience and can have a huge impact on your future. But whether you’re on day 1 searching for an internship (I recommend asking advisors/teachers first) or starting day 1 of training (yay!) there is one thing to keep in mind:

You get what you give.

What I mean by this is that your internship is really only as valuable as what effort you put into it. While there may be a few magic internships out there that involve high-level, exciting and interesting work, that’s probably more the exception than the rule. For many of us our internships might end up being little better than stereotypical coffee runs as we’ve seen in so many movies, but even if that is the case there’s still an opportunity to learn something from the grunt work. If you do get the totally normal, pretty much likely “grunt work” internship there are two ways you can handle it:

  1. Complain/Fake it till you make it or
  2. Make the best of it.

I recommend trying to make the best of it.

Internships are a great opportunity to learn but rarely if ever do you learn from the top or the middle; starting at the bottom of a certain field, a certain career, or business is actually how it usually works. While it might not be your ultimate dream job, take the time in your internship to ask questions, talk to your supervisors and other members of the team. That networking and learning opportunity can be worth its weight in gold.  They know you are there to learn while providing them with help on their projects. This is a great time to learn how to get to where you want to be, the “hidden” rules that come with working in a business, how you can succeed, and ultimately what you’d like to do or not do as a career.

The more you are able to immerse yourself into your job the more rewarding the experience will be. Make an effort to put your best work out there – one of the great things about being an intern is that you have a fresh perspective. If you’re given a project and you have an idea to make the project stronger, talk about it! Even if your boss doesn’t go with your idea, it shows them you are capable of thinking critically, creatively, and that you’re confident enough to discuss your ideas in a business and professional setting.

Internships are a great way to experiment with your future without much risk.

The simplest ways to get the most out of it:

  • Ask questions, and ask for help
  • Show you’re interested
  • Give input
  • Be on time (obviously)
  • Ask for more work when you’ve finished one task
  • See if you can sit in on strategy or planning meetings
  • After some experience, ask to help out on larger, potentially more important projects
  • Be confident—if you have an idea, ask about it! You might make it a reality.
  • Be friendly—build your network, you never know when it’ll pay off.

There are so many other things you can gain from internships. Just remember that love it or hate it, an internship will ultimately help prepare you for the next step and will make an attractive addition to your resume.