Congratulations, you’ve been hired for an internship or co-op position! Whether the job is in-person or virtual, you’re probably a complete bundle of emotions — excitement, relief, and nervousness. Your internship will be short so make it worthwhile!
It’s vital that you absorb as much information, knowledge and practical experience as possible. Internships look great on a resume but your contributions should be tangible too. You should be able to showcase what you learned in another job, and how this internship prepared you for a long-term career in your field.
Here are three major questions to help you reflect and prepare yourself for your internship:
What hard and soft skills can I gain during my internship?
Hard skills are tangible, teachable skills typically acquired through formal education. They serve as baseline requirements for potential employees in any given field. Look at the “Skills and qualifications” section on a job posting – those are your hard skills. For instance, proficiency with the Microsoft Office Suite is a hard skill required for most administrative jobs.
Soft skills are interpersonal skills such as leadership, teamwork, communication, problem-solving, and work ethic. They can’t be formally taught and must be acquired through personal development, practical experience and adaptability. Soft skills are critical skills needed in all industries and are necessary for positive communication and running the workplace smoothly.
If you’ve been hired for an internship that means you already possess the hard skills relevant to your field. This internship is a practical opportunity for you to test your hard skills and develop soft skills in a real working environment.
As you continue in your internship or co-op, ask yourself what soft and hard skills you need to gain that you can carry into a future role.
How can I best contribute to the company?
An internship isn’t just about gaining experience. It’s also about you, as a fresh young hire, contributing your creativity, ideas, and new skills to the company. Start thinking about what you can GIVE. There are two reasons to focus on this:
- Many companies monitor interns and consider them for full-time positions. You have to know what you, as an individual, can offer that others can’t. Supervisors want interns who take their jobs seriously and give their all to the company. Doing this can raise your chances of being offered a long-term position.
- Treat your internship like a ‘real job’ rather than an extension of school. You are in this internship to learn but the aim is not an A+ report card. The aim is to become a professional in your own right with a network to build on for the future. Take the job seriously. If you aren’t offered a full-time position at the end of the internship, you can still get great references.
What can I take away from this internship (If am not offered a full-time job)?
While many interns do get offered full-time positions, this isn’t always the case. If you’re one of the latter, it’s okay. Don’t worry — your experience was extremely valuable and you contributed a great deal. Take that experience into your next role.
The #1 take away from your internship should be the connections you made. Stay in touch with your colleagues, fellow interns, and your direct supervisor. If you present yourself as a professional who understands how to apply what you’ve learned to the industry, others will take notice and refer you to their network for future roles.
Remember, an internship is just the beginning of your career — a diving board into the waters of professional life. Good luck! You got this!