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An internship is an opportunity to get hands-on experience with an employer in your professional field of interest. Internships may be paid or unpaid, and are typically completed as part of college coursework. While your college or university will have specific requirements for what you should experience during the intern process, you can establish your own personal and professional objectives for what you want to take away from the experience.
Learn About The Business
An internship is an opportunity to learn about how a business works on both a large scale and on a day-to-day basis. You may find you enjoy the profession and want to pursue it, or you may come to realize that it's not what you originally anticipated, and decide you want to pursue a different line of work. Making a definitive and educated choice about your career path should be a goal of the internship experience.
Learn New Skills
Have a goal to learn as much as you can about the vins and outs of the job you're interested in. For example, if you’re interning at a graphic design firm, become familiar with the project planning process, learn how to conduct initial client interviews and familiarize yourself with the most frequently used software programs.
Get Constructive Feedback
An internship is about learning through doing, and asking for constructive feedback will help you hone your skills and become more professional. Take in comments, suggestions, recommendations and critiques and learn as much as you can from each one. Even if you get conflicting advice, it is still valuable, as different people in your line of work will have different approaches to project management and the way they approach daily tasks. Having these alternative perspectives can make you well-rounded and more knowledgeable about your field.
Establish Yourself Professionally
Even in an intern capacity, you should strive to represent yourself in a professional and businesslike manner. The input you get from colleagues and the way you interact with them can help you start defining your professional persona. You will learn what approaches and interactions are effective and which ones are not. Strive not to just observe the work environment, but to be an active participant in as many ways as possible.
An internship is a place to start building your professional network. Initiate conversations and ask questions of the people you work with and come in contact with. That includes not just your supervisor, but the other people you work with and even your casual acquaintances in the lunch room. You never know where someone will end up down the road, and establishing initial inroads as an intern gives you a solid foundation of professional contacts to build on. Plan to stay in touch with those you meet after the internship is complete.
Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.
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