There are many benefits to an internship or apprenticeship, but if you’re hoping that it will lead to a full-time job with the employer, you need to start thinking like an employee.
Set clear goals
When you apply for an internship, you will have personal and professional goals. But it’s worth creating some targets based on the company’s needs, too. So, in the initial conversations with your supervisor, don’t be afraid to ask exactly what will be expected of you, and turn this information into a “task list” for the duration of your stay. Having clear goals will give you focus – and achieving them will give you a list of accomplishments to impress your boss when it comes to the end of your placement.
Think about your employers’ needs
Yes, you’re doing an internship to further your own career, but what do your employers need? What are your managers looking to achieve, and why do they work the way they do? If you can work out what “success” means to those higher up in the organisation, and align the way you think about your work with their business goals, you will go a long way.
Be prepared to do menial work
Although looking at the bigger picture and thinking about where you can add value is important, there will always be low-level work to do. And, as the intern, you are most likely to be asked to do it! But if you can prove that you can do menial jobs well, you will build a good reputation. If you can complete even the most basic of tasks with enthusiasm and care, you’re likely to be trusted with more interesting work in the future.
Make the effort to fit in
What do people wear in the office? How formally – or informally – do they speak to each other? How long is too long for a coffee break? Every office has its own culture, but if you can work out what the unwritten rules are, and follow them, you’ll start to fit in. And the easier you fit in, the more likely people will be to consider you a colleague rather than “the intern”.
Tell them you’d like to stay
It’s not always obvious that someone on an internship wants to stay on and turn it into a full-time job. So, make it obvious! When you speak to your supervisor, be upfront about the fact that you see this internship as the start of a long relationship, and ask what you can do to make the most out of it. They may surprise you by giving you a better idea of their long-term plans and how you might fit into them.
Be observant and help others
Is your colleague always filing when they could be doing more important work? Could you offer to take it off their hands? If you’re observant enough to notice where you could make someone’s life easier by taking on a small amount of administrative work – and you do it well – they will remember you. Traits like empathy and kindness might not appear in most job descriptions, but they are valued in the office environment.
Ask questions… appropriately
Don’t be afraid to ask questions about people’s work, especially if they show that you want to understand the industry or sector better. But make sure you “read the room”. Don’t interrupt work or meetings – find a time when people are not too busy, and always ask if it’s a good time for them to talk. And on a related note…
Show your appreciation
Always thank people for their time, especially if they have taken a break from work to offer you advice or information. At the end of your internship, you could even drop your employers a card or a note to thank them for the experience… and to remind them of your contact details should a full-time job opportunity open up.
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- Publication date
- 22 July 2018
- European Labour Authority | Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion
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