Five ideas to make the best of your internship

September 29, 2014

Internship is the first exposure to work for many young persons. They enter an organization to learn, to gain experience and enhance their career prospects. Unfortunately internship does not always go well. Interns get frustrated due a number of reasons: lack of clarity in what they are supposed to do; not doing substantial work and being reduced to just another helping hand; supervisor not giving enough time or guidance etc.

Here are 5 ideas that might help:

1. Spend time knowing about the organization particularly in the first week
Read as much as possible and interact with people. Get to know the organization’s vision and work. The first week is ideal for this as interns usually go through an induction, and specific work is not yet assigned. As time passes, it often becomes difficult to spend time on this.

2. Seek clarity on what you are expected to do
Generally there is an agreed ‘Terms of Reference’ but often it is too broad and specifics are not defined. This creates confusion and causes problems. Have meetings with your supervisor and seek clarity on what is expected of you. Make sure to have regular meetings with your supervisor and agree on deliverables as your work may change from time to time.

3. Connect the dots and develop a broader perspective
Understand how your work is connected to the work of your team and the overall scheme of things. Interact with colleagues from other teams and appreciate how different departments work together to contribute to the organizational goal(s). Earlier you understand the importance of inter-dependence and team work, the better it is.

4. Learn and enhance Skills
Make the best of all learning opportunities. You may learn how to develop and execute strategies and plans, organize meetings, workshops or events, training etc. You can also learn how organizational processes are organized. Remember no task is small. Even if you learn how to write minutes of a meeting, it is going to help you forever.

5. Identify role models and mentors
Observe your colleagues. What makes them successful? What do they do differently? You may find role models and mentors. Learn from them and keep in touch with them even after the internship is over. This contact will help you at different stages of your career.

Before I end, I must add that it is also the responsibility of supervisors to ensure that internship is a good experience for interns.