An internship is the perfect opportunity for students, soon to be graduates and recent graduates to gain valuable, relevant skills and workplace experience that builds your resume and, beyond that, can lead to a full-time job offer. Internships can also launch and shape the type of career you want.
In fact, according to the Leger Marketing Survey put forth by Universities Canada, roughly 80 percent of employers believe co-operative education (a type of internship that enables college students to receive career training with pay as they work with companies in their major fields of study) and internships are an excellent source of new talent and potential future employees.
As a recent graduate and current recruitment intern here with WilsonCTS, I have personally benefited from two co-op semesters – one during my undergrad and one during post-graduate studies. I can say, without a doubt, if it wasn’t for my co-op opportunities, I wouldn’t be in the position I am today. Also according to Universities Canada, 55 percent of students benefit from co-op programs. However, co-ops and internships are about much more than earning the opportunity; young professionals need to capitalize by making the most of their time with a company!
Based on my personal experiences, there are five definitive ways to make certain you’re making the most out of your internship opportunities:
1. Choose the right opportunity.
When it comes to searching for and ultimately choosing your internship, it’s important to hone in on internships that interest you, and are relevant to your studies and skillset. The most common mistake I have seen fellow classmates make is choosing the opportunities that don’t align with their future goals. Or, they end up applying to every internship opportunity available. Whether it’s recruitment, advertising or sales, apply to the positions that interest and will ultimately benefit you for the long term. In this way, you can build your resume with the skills and experiences you need to jumpstart a career you're most passionate about.
2. Ask Questions.
Throughout your internship, don’t be afraid to ask questions! It’s like the saying, “There’s no such thing as a stupid question.” It may sound cliche, but it’s also entirely true. Your internship is an incredible opportunity to learn and gain workplace experience. Take advantage of the opportunity you’ve earned by connecting with colleagues and absorbing as much information as possible. In this way, you're not only building a network of industry peers, but you can come to an informed decision as to whether or not this career path is right for you.
3. Take ownership over your experience!
Before your first day on the job, come up with a list of objectives – goals you hope to accomplish, questions you hope to have answered, factors that will determine whether each day is a success. Perhaps, very early on in your internship tenure, take a moment with your supervisor/direct manager to talk through your objectives! The organization will of course have goals and objectives for you to accomplish, but a personal list ensures you’re striving for what you feel strongly about while providing the opportunity to evaluate whether the opportunity is right for you/you’re making the most of your time.
4. Ask for feedback (then ask for more).
Along the way, make sure to also ask for feedback on your performance. For example: “What can I do better?” “What areas of strength have you noticed?” “Am I meeting your set goals?” Then document the feedback! File it away and put it to work, use it to improve and/or build upon areas your excelling in. Internships are about growth, personally and professionally; asking for feedback and putting it to work makes certain you’re never growing complacent.
5. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
Your internship is a time of learning; it’s your opportunity to put into action the lessons you’ve learned from years of studying, texts and research papers. As such, it’s important to “go all out” by not being afraid to fail forward. Especially with internships, effort trumps results. Nobody is perfect, and you won’t be perfect in your first internship opportunity. Make mistakes, learn from them, and put the previous four tips to work to ensure you’re improving at every possible opportunity.
Organizations today are seeking to evolve their talent strategies in order to meet the needs of the younger, growing workforce. In fact, by 2020, 18-35 year-olds will make up 50 percent of the workforce. To attract the best young talent, university recruitment is stepping further into the spotlight; not just for open roles but for companies seeking to proactively stock their talent pipelines with candidates who are driven, willing to develop/grow and be innovative in their thinking.
Standout from the crowd, catch your dream company’s attention and catapult your career by making the most of your internships!