If you are a college student looking to head-start your career, you may come face-to-face with the harsh reality that you indeed have none of the required work experience. It can be discouraging to hear that you need experience to land the job, but also need a job to gain experience. Luckily, an internship can teach you almost everything you need to know to succeed in your desired career. So, whether you want an internship or are required to do one; here are 8 tips to help you land your next (or first) internship:
- Do your research
Let’s assume you nailed the interview and are ready to be the best intern your company has ever had. In order to succeed as an intern, you must at least have basic knowledge of the organization. What’s the company motto? When was the company founded? Any names you should be familiar with? Before my internship at Station Casinos began, I had limited knowledge on the company. One thing I did have though was internet access and plenty of time before my first day to familiarize myself with the company. LinkedIn was a great way to research my superiors before arriving on the first day.
- Treat your internship like a real job
Reality is that most internships are unpaid, but if you are getting paid then what a great bonus. But with either case scenario, you should always treat every opportunity as if you were in the real world. That is when you will gain the most experience and knowledge. An internship is not volunteer work, you are not helping a company out by getting coffee and answering emails. The company you are interning for is paying you either through monetary compensation or in real work experience.
- Observe and Learn
Chances are that even after extensive research there will still be things about the company that you won’t know. Some things you will learn as you go, so it’s best to observe the company and pick up on what everyone in the organization is doing. Is there a specific dress code? If you don’t know things like the dress code, it is best to dress professionally until you see what everyone else in the office is wearing.There are many things I picked up on during my time as an intern. During my internship with the company I learned everything from who I could go to with questions down to what drink dispenser in the Team Member dining room had the best tasting water.
- Build your Portfolio
Interning is not only a great way to gain work experience, but also to put together a portfolio for future employers. If there is a project you are particularly proud of, it is never a bad idea to save a copy of it for yourself. A portfolio of your past work is tangible proof that you possess the skills outlined in your resume. When I began my internship, my mentor’s words of wisdom were to put together a portfolio of my work. I now save all of the work I do so I can highlight any project I am proud of. I keep an online file of every blog I written and photo I’ve taken. If you choose to apply for a similar job, you can always give the employer examples of your past work.
- Think outside the box
In order to be the best intern, you must learn to step outside of your comfort zone. Do not be afraid to ask for work that is interesting to you. If there is something you are eager to learn or help out with, ask your employer how you can help. Part of being a new intern at a company means that you are fresh set of eyes and can bring new ideas to the table. It is okay to have an input; chances are your employer will appreciate it.
- Make friends and Network
While you may be a temporary member of the company, you should still strive make connections. An internship does not only give you the opportunity to network, but also make friends. You are surrounded by other people in a professional environment and should take advantage of it. Coworkers can show you the ropes of the organization and answer questions that you may not be comfortable asking your boss or higher-ups. If there is anything I will always keep with me from my internship at Station Casinos, it would be the connections I have made. An internship is a great way to network because you are in constant contact with people who are already working in your desired field. As intern you are also spending a significant amount of time with the company so why not make friends or at least acquaintances while working there?
- Turn your internship into a full-time position
An internship can be a first look into your professional career, but most importantly it can even lead to your first job in your industry. This is why you should treat your internship like a real job. Many companies who hire interns tend to offer future employment if they are exceptionally pleased. If you can see yourself working for the company in the future, then let it be known. When it comes to work, there is no reason to play hard to get. Always put your best foot-forward and show your employer that you are a phenomenal candidate for a future position.
- Learn from the bad experiences
Chances are that you will leave your internship with a great deal of information that can be applied to any future job. However, you may quickly discover that the company or internship is not the one for you. The reality is that somewhere in your professional career you will land somewhere you don’t exactly fit. This does not necessarily reflect on you OR the company, but if this is the case, do not feel discouraged. A “bad” internship can be a learning lesson. Know that this internship is temporary and make the best of it while you are there.
I have nothing but great things to say about my time interning for Station Casinos. I do however, understand that not all internships are created equal. I’ve met a handful of people who have had a less than desirable internship experience. I believe that if an internship is not the right fit for you, it can still be a learning lesson. An internship can teach you what you like and what you don’t like. Many people discovered that they were not as passionate about their desired career as they thought they were. In other words, an internship can be a lot like test-driving a car before you commit to buying it.
Internships can open doors when you are out of college. In many cases, internships can guarantee you a job by the time you receive your degree. If there is a company that you are interested in working for, make sure you take the time to research, network, reach out and don’t be afraid to ask about a potential opportunity.
Most importantly, remember that just like you, there are dozens of people looking for the same internship opportunities. Just like a real job, landing an internship can be just as competitive as applying for full-time position. For this reason, you should pounce at an opportunity as soon as it becomes available and always put your best foot forward!
– Andrea R.