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An internship is a great opportunity to get experience in a career field. But how can you make the most of your time as an intern? In this lesson, we’ll offer tips for maximizing your internship in the areas of learning, relationships and performance.

Internship

Casey is an English major. She really wants to become an editor when she graduates, but she knows that those jobs are pretty hard to come by.

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Not only that, there’s a lot about editing that she doesn’t know. How can she develop skills and experience to help her get into publishing after she graduates?One thing that Casey can do is to take an internship, which is on-the-job training. Internships can be paid or unpaid, and sometimes they offer college credit.

Essentially, when Casey is doing an internship, she’ll be going to work a couple of days a week at the publishing house where her internship is. She’ll help out around the office and get experience working at a real publishing house. She’ll also be able to see, firsthand, what an editor’s life is like.

That sounds pretty great, doesn’t it? So, how can Casey get an internship? Internships can be found through a college, your network, or a job posting website. Casey will have to apply, the same as she would for a regular job. She’ll submit her resume and cover letter and probably go for an interview eventually.Once she’s selected and ready to start her internship, though, what should she do? How can she make the most of her limited time as an intern? Let’s look closer at how Casey can maximize her internship experience in three areas: learning, relationships and performance.

Learning

One of the great things about internships is that they are a great chance to learn. Casey can learn about what the job of an editor is really like and also learn skills that she can use to help her in future jobs. In fact, there are so many things that Casey can learn from her internship that it would be impossible to list them all!But there are a few things that she can do to maximize her learning opportunities. They include:1. Set development goalsA development goal is a goal that is about learning something new or gaining a new skill or experience. It’s different from a performance goal because a development goal is about continuing to grow and get better, not hitting a specific metric.

For example, a performance goal in a math class might be to get an A. That goal is focused on the performance of a person. In contrast, a development goal from that same class might be to fully understand the underlying math concepts.Development goals are a good thing for Casey to set at the beginning of her internship. She can set them on her own, or better yet, talk to her boss and set them in conjunction with the boss. She should come to her boss with suggestions for development goals but ask him his opinion on her goals and what other ones he thinks she should set.

2. ObserveCasey can notice the culture and behavior of people at work. This can help her in this job but also in future jobs.

For example, perhaps she notices that the most skilled employees ask certain questions to make sure they understand things before moving forward, whereas the employees who aren’t as good at their jobs don’t ask questions at all. This is something that Casey can use both at this internship and also in the future at whatever job she takes.3. Conduct informal informational interviewsAn informational interview is one where you ask someone what their job is like, what they do on a day-to-day basis and things like that. It’s about finding out what it’s really like to work in a specific job or career.

At her internship, Casey will be very busy doing her own work. But she should use her breaks and lunchtime to informally ask people about their jobs and figure out what it’s like to be them. She might discover that she really likes the idea of being in the marketing department instead of working in editorial, for example. She’ll never know that unless she asks people from the marketing department what their jobs are like.

4. Identify and improve skillsCasey can use her internship to identify which skills are most important to success. Is it being able to summarize things quickly? Spotting what makes a good book? Learning how to ask good questions? All of these things, and many more, probably go into being a good editor.Once Casey has identified which skills are important, she can then use her time to develop those skills. She can work on how to spot what makes a good book and talk to her boss and other editors to get their feedback. Slowly, she’ll get better and better at that skill, which will help her at her internship and also in the future when she’s an editor.

Relationships

Learning isn’t the only thing that can come out of Casey’s internship, though.

Relationships are an important part of everyone’s career. You’ve probably heard people talk about how important networking is to career success. Well, networking is nothing more than building relationships.Casey can use her internship to build relationships with the people she’s working with and for.There are three important things for her to do in this aspect:1. Avoid office politicsEvery company has people who get along and people who don’t. In some ways, working at a corporation can feel like you’re back in middle school again, with cliques and people who will do anything to be at the top of the heap.

No matter what, Casey should avoid office politics and gossip. If someone tries to talk to her about someone else or pull her into a disagreement, Casey should politely change the subject. There’s no reason for Casey to take sides in any disagreement, and she has the perfect out: she can simply respond, ‘I’m just an intern. I don’t know anything about that.’ Avoiding office politics will ensure that Casey keeps on good terms with everyone at the office, which is important.

2. Find a mentorA mentor is a career advisor. Perhaps the best possible thing that Casey can do, relationship-wise, in her internship is to find a mentor and strike up a relationship with him or her. This should be someone who Casey admires and whose career she wants to emulate.

It could be her boss or another editor, but it should be someone with whom Casey feels comfortable enough to ask questions, and someone who she trusts to give her good advice.3. Be positiveCasey will likely be asked to do some work that she doesn’t want to do, like make coffee or file some papers. Though it’s not ideal, Casey should agree with a smile and keep a positive attitude about it.

This goes a long way towards impressing the people above her in the company and gives her a great reputation.

Performance

Relationships and learning are important, but so is Casey’s performance at her internship. She wants to leave the internship having succeeded at the job and leave everyone happy that she worked for.Why is performance so important? Internships can lead to a job offer or, if the company isn’t hiring, a job recommendation. If Casey does well at her internship, her boss is more likely to want to hire her or to give her a glowing recommendation.So, what can Casey do to make sure that she succeeds?1. Do her bestNo matter what the job is, Casey should do it as though it is the most important thing she’s ever done.

Brewing coffee, reading manuscripts or meeting with the CEO: it should all be treated the same.2. Ask for feedbackCasey should check in regularly with her boss to see how she’s doing. Asking how she can improve is a great way to demonstrate to the boss that she’s a dedicated worker. The advice he gives her can help her become even better at the job.3. Seek clarificationIf Casey isn’t sure how to do something, she should speak up and ask questions.

Keeping quiet won’t help Casey learn, and it could hurt her performance, so asking questions should be a major part of her internship.

Lesson Summary

An internship is on-the-job training that can be paid or unpaid. There are three areas that interns can focus on to maximize their time in an internship: learning, including developing skills; relationships, including developing a network; and performance, including doing your best no matter what the job is.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge gained from this lesson could enable you to:

  • Describe three methods for maximizing an internship experience
  • Discuss three ways to foster relationships in the workplace
  • Enumerate three actions that can lead to a successful performance

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