Don’t settle by thinking of yourself as “just an intern.” Instead, co-manage your internship and the experience!
Here are some ideas to get you started…
Set your Own Goals
What do you want to learn during your internship?
Create a set of goals along several paths: networking (online and offline), skills development, project management and soft skills are usually a great place to start.
Once you’ve written your goals down, share them with your mentor/manager so they can assign the projects and people from whom you can best learn your target skills, while also accomplishing organizational goals. Be sure to keep your manager informed of your progress and accomplishments.
Find a Mentor
The person who hired you won’t always be your mentor. And your assigned supervisor may not be the most effective mentor available during the internship.
Create and maintain a relationship with those in the organization who already possess the skills that match your goals – and learn from them. Chances are those individuals are more than happy to nurture enthusiastic, young talent – and work within your supervisor’s plan for your internship.
Manage Your Manager
You may find yourself working more independently than perhaps you’d expected. Good! This is often the best way to learn.
As your supervisor performs their own duties and meets deadlines, being proactive – and somewhat flexible – is the key. You have your list of goals – which of those can you pursue independently? How can you accomplish your goals while helping the company get to the next level?
By asserting yourself professionally, you show a sense of responsibility and leadership. Andyour busy manager will appreciate your proactive approach and the assistance during what for them is clearly “crunch” time.
Keep Track of Your Duties and Accomplishments
Along with your mentors and manager, you are equally accountable for what you learn – and what you accomplish.
Whenever possible, track quantifiable data.
For example: “Increased the company’s Twitter followers from 10 to 30,000 over the course of my 3-month internship.” Or, “Created a cost reduction schedule that now saves the company over $10,000 per month.”
You also want to track anecdotal measures of progress and performance. Perhaps a team member, customer or vendor appreciated your enthusiasm and problem solving skills? Maybe you helped edit a Powerpoint presentation, making it more presentable – and got it out on time? And the times when you voluntarily jumped into projects to help other team members should be noted. Each of these examples show you are a team player, an innovator, and a leader.
Keep careful track of this information as it will come in handy – especially at the end of your internship, when you help your manager craft your recommendation letters.
Remember: you are not “just an intern” biding your time until the internship ends – and you sure didn’t accept this internship to fetch coffee and make copies.
Throughout your internship, take control of your time – and your goals – by co-managing the experience!
About the Author: Dave Ellis is an original member of the YouTern team and is instrumental to its success… in fact, he’s so awesome there wouldn’t be a YouTern without him (and he might have written this bio himself). Dave serves as YouTern’s Content and Community Manager, and enjoys his role as the company’s “Man Behind the Curtain”. In his spare time, Dave volunteers, rescuing and rehabilitating sea lions and baby elephant seals. Connect with Dave on LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter!