November 16, 2018

Tips for interns: 4 easy steps to make the most of your internship experience

By Tierney Kelly-Baldwin, UBC Practicum Student

So you got your dream internship, now what? Interning is a crucial step in starting a career and landing your dream position, but it can be very daunting at times. Whether required for school or you have gone out to find one yourself, you will be interning with the hopes of earning a permanent position or, at the very least, a good reference and learning experience. Here are some tips for interns on how to make the most of your experience.

  1. Do not be afraid to ask questions.

You are likely walking into a position that you do not have much experience with, which is why you took this internship. Your mentors are not expecting you to be a pro and have all the answers – they are expecting you will have questions and know you’ll be learning on the job. Don’t be afraid to ask questions as needed, but also remember that Google can be your new best friend. Before asking questions, take the initiative to try and figure it out yourself – your employer will certainly appreciate the effort. Remember that no question is a bad question, and curiosity shows you are engaged and willing to learn. If you are coming from a school program, your fellow classmates and teachers are great additional resources and will always be willing to help. It’s a two-way street: they might need your help in the future, so don’t hesitate to reach out to them.

  1. Remember, you are not alone.

If you are ever feeling overwhelmed, take refuge in knowing that you are not alone. Starting any new position can be overwhelming, and it can be especially challenging getting real-time feedback on your work. Instead of seeing critiques as criticism, look at it as a valuable opportunity to grow. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your supervisor/mentor if you are feeling overwhelmed with work, there is no shame in asking for support or voicing when your plate feels too full. Honesty goes a long way and communication is key. Talk to classmates, friends, and family as well, they will be your best support and a great source of advice.

  1. Keep a positive attitude.

A positive attitude will go a long way and will prove to be your greatest asset. It may sound cheesy, but you get back what you put out in the world. If you show up for your internship with a positive attitude and willingness to learn, you will get the most out of the experience and your co-workers will try to give you work that excites you. Think of the bigger picture and value your internship experience provides. The people you are working with will be valuable networking connections and sources of industry information, so building these relationships is key.

  1. Have realistic expectations.

It is essential to remember to take your position proudly. Before you walk in the door on your first day, take a second to remind yourself that you are walking into an established organization, there are systems in place you will not be aware of and be prepared for a learning experience. You will not be managing the biggest account and don’t expect to be schmoozing clients over a luxurious lunch! You will most likely be taking on a supportive role and some tasks may seem “small”. Don’t see this as an insult, but as an opportunity to prove yourself. Your employer will be impressed to hear you ask for more responsibility once you have shown you can handle more challenging tasks.