Internships — What You Need to Know
4 Things I Wish Somebody Told Me
As summer is right around the corner, many people are going to be taking on internships. I’m a big advocate on internships, because it’s a great way for anyone to start working in an industry without the prerequisite of having background knowledge. While they are a great way to gain real world experience, they’re also a good way to get a taste of an industry and see if it’s something you really like doing.
Last year, I worked for the majority of the time in multiple internships. I gained significant experience, learned what I don’t want to do in life, and understood the value of my time.
Here are a few quick things that I wished someone told me before I started working as an intern.
Create a Plan
You’re not going to hold an internship position forever, so it’s a good idea to know what you are going to do after. Some companies require a commitment of at least 1 year, while some others require less. This will vary depending on your industry.
Prior to the meeting before getting hired, have the understanding of whether or not there is a potential to gain a full time position once your internship is over. If you do not know, it’s a good question to ask the hiring manager. This will set the tone of the internship. If there is potential for grow into a full time position, plan for the future and what you need to do to successfully attain that position. If not, have a plan and understanding when you will exit.
Don’t make the same mistake as I did by telling the hiring manager or employer, that I can be an intern for “as long as it takes,” or “as long as possible.” If the internship is paid and there is no potential of moving into a full time position, then anywhere from 6 months to 1 year is fine. However, if the position is unpaid, then I would recommend not to stay there any longer than 3–4 months.
Learn as Much as You Can
The things that you can learn from your internship are certainly priceless. I can say this because in a month of interning, I learned more about marketing than I did in two years of college. Take advantage of the company’s resources and hands-on training to gain new skills and knowledge. Use the time to learn real life skills that can make you marketable for your next job.
Create Connections and Network
Internships can offer a goldmine of professional connections and a gateway to start building your own network. It’s great way to meet and network with key leaders and influencers within your industry when otherwise they would be unapproachable. Even if your job does not entail you to physically meet people every single day, you can still connect with anyone online, especially on LinkedIn.
One way that I learned to build my own network and connect with key influencers in my industry, was to use my employers existing connections. Regardless of your industry, the CEO of the company or even manager has been in the business for a while and knows a lot of important people. You can easily take advantage of that by building your network off of theirs.
I slowly started building my own network by sending people invitations to connect on LinkedIn. The key however, is to include a message that introduces you and shows them how you are connected with one another. A sample message that I often use is listed below.
Hey [NAME], this is Andrew. I am interning with (COMPANY) and learning a ton from (EMPLOYER NAME). I became a big fan of your blog (OR ANYTHING ELSE), and I’d love to be a part of your professional network here on LinkedIn.
Take advantage of the massive network that the company has, to build yours. A wise man once said, “your network is your net worth.”
Don’t Sacrifice Your Time If It’s Not Worth It
I learned this the hard way. Time is priceless. Although you can’t put a price on knowledge, you can’t ever get your time back. I’m a supporter of internships, but I don’t support unpaid labor. If the output benefit does not outweigh the energy input, it’s not worth it. If you NEVER had any kind of work experience, then an unpaid internship for a few months is fine to start building your resume.
If there is no future or no guarantee that it might move to a paid position, don’t get too comfortable.
Always remember, use internships as leverage. It’s the prime way to slip into an industry to learn, make connections, and see if it’s really what you want to do. If it’s anything more than that, you are trading in your time to be working for someone else.