Whether you’re embarking on an internship as part of your university course or as a proactive step to learn new skills, interning at a company is a great way to lay the foundations of your future career. And your success will largely depend on how willing you are to get stuck in. In practice, it’s clear that this is a complex process that takes place on several different levels. Read on for the myLIFE take on four ways to get ahead.
First and foremost, it’s important to understand that you have every chance of making a success of your internship. Especially if you get off on the right foot. As Coco Chanel put it, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression”. How should you behave? Who should you speak to? How should you talk to them? From day one, it’s just as valuable to score points as it is to avoid blunders. Start by remembering that the team are expecting you and that you were selected for this internship from a pool of candidates. Be sure to share what prompted you to apply for the internship with the wider team and show that you are keen to make yourself useful. After that, it’s up to you to prove yourself. myLIFE has drawn up a list of four ways you can get stuck in, moving from the most corporate to the most personal.
Getting stuck into the company and its identity
What company are you joining and what is its identity? What are its current challenges, what sets its services apart and what’s the latest news? Every company has a unique vision, personality and culture. Failing to understand or adjust to this will make it a lot harder for you to fit in. Don’t just saunter in on the first day without the slightest idea about the company hosting you. Be prepared, read up and immerse yourself in the culture of your host company. The more you can show that you are familiar with the company’s culture, the quicker you’ll be accepted. And the more you’re accepted as part of the team, the more you’ll be included in its various projects, as well as meetings and events with other departments. It’s rarely spelled out explicitly, but you should understand that you’re very likely to be judged on your ability to behave in a way that reflects the company’s identity.
Take the time to observe and understand your new surroundings – not just the company at large but also your team in particular.
Four out of five employees say that good relationships among colleagues are key to well-being in the workplace
Getting stuck in with your team
Above all, working in a team means building bridges. Fostering good relationships with your colleagues – especially those you work closely with – is vital. Four out of five employees say that this is essential to ensure well-being in the workplace. And besides, the ability to work together determines the productivity of the team as a whole.
Decide you’re going to be someone who nurtures strong relationships. Be proactive, contribute to discussions and ask for feedback. You could even bring in croissants from time to time or organise a team lunch. There are endless possible ways to show your commitment and start to earn the team’s trust. Take the time to get to know your colleagues and allow them to get to know you too. Learn how best to help out with the projects they have on the go rather than always wanting to do things your own way. Humility is an essential part of fitting in with your team. The ability to do the work expected of you to a high standard is another.
Getting stuck into your role
Good relationships with your colleagues won’t last long if they’re not happy with your work. That’s why the ability to fully understand what’s expected of you is another decisive factor for a successful internship. What is the objective of your internship and what do your colleagues expect? Having a detailed internship job description is one thing – the day-to-day needs of the team can be quite another. Try to find a good balance between the two.
Your internship supervisor is the person who will explain what is expected of you and review your objectives during the internship where necessary. They will help you throughout your internship and check in with you on a regular basis. We recommend that you take notes during these meetings and speak up if you have any questions. Your supervisor would far rather spend five more minutes explaining a project to you than have to get you to start all over again down the road because you’ve missed the mark. That said, don’t forget that we all make mistakes and you’re not expected to perform as well as a seasoned staff member. If you do make a mistake, don’t try to cover it up whatever you do. If you lose your colleagues’ trust you may never win them round again. But abandoning your own ambitions in an effort to please is just as much of a risk to the success of your internship.
Don’t give up on your ambitions just to please others.
Getting stuck into your ambitions
Up to this point, we’ve focused entirely on how you should be adapting to others’ expectations. The final way to get ahead is to get stuck into your own ambitions. A successful internship is one that is worthwhile for the company and for you. An internship isn’t an opportunity for the company to recruit cheap labour. Above all, it’s a springboard for your professional goals and ambitions. Don’t give up on them just to please others. Instead, be straightforward and specific about your priorities. Remember that an internship is a chance to see how your theoretical knowledge plays out in practice within a company. It’s your responsibility to make sure that it is a valuable supplement to your studies. What are you looking to learn and how do you want to develop? Discuss this with your supervisor and sound the alarm immediately if you don’t see what you have to gain. It’s never too late to change tack.
A successful internship is invaluable, but it requires preparation, effort and plenty of communication. You’ll need to strike the right balance between your own ambitions and the reality of your role, the team you’re joining and the wider company culture. To dig a little deeper, read up on the Ten Commandments for interns looking to make the most of their opportunity.