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How to Make the Best of Your Internship

by Chloe Lee. |

I’ve had several internships as a student and I personally believe this is the best thing you can do before you start on ‘full adult mode’ - gain experiences in different roles without commitments or having no consequences after making mistakes (not huge one, of course!).

AND it looks good on your resume? Sign me up! When it comes to any work experiences, one of the first advice people give us is to: ask a lot of questions! That is indeed one of the best ways to maximize your internships, but what exactly do you ask? Who do we direct these questions to?

Of course, we can google a list of questions to ask, and then we end up with really generic questions such as: so, what are some of the challenges in your role? So, how long have you been here? Or task-specific questions like: how do I use this copy machine (Copy machine: 1 / Author: 0) How do I send an email blast?

More than asking questions just for the sake of it, you ask questions that matter and make a difference. Why?

  • For your own progress – asking the right questions, depending on your specific role and aspirations, helps you develop the right thought processes and gain relevant skills.

  • It actually leaves an impression on your bosses or colleagues, it shows them that you’re serious about your job and future. It builds rapport, leaves a good reputation, and paves a way for you to return as a full-time employee (that is, if you want to – and yes, when you adopt the right skills, you get the upper hand of deciding where you’d like to work!).

Let's begin!

1. Ask someone out for lunch

Not in a romantic way… If you get to meet the love of your life during an internship then that’s a bonus, but that’s not the point we’re trying to make right now! Whether the company you intern at is large or small, there will definitely be someone you can have a meal with in a smaller setting. Big meals are great too, it’s fun and you get to meet a lot of people, but having one-to-one sessions allow you to dive deeper.

Ask about their roles - What are their day to day tasks? How do they like it? This gives you a better idea of the entire company and the other functions within your office. Someone may be from a different department, but they are still under the same roof - you essentially belong to the same body and function as a single unit and need each other. An eye needs the nose, just as much as a hand needs the kidneys as well, it is important to respect every role and every individual and to have a humble attitude to learn from everyone.

Don’t be afraid to ask personal questions, the good thing about lunch is that it is more casual and you get to know someone on a deeper level. What were their goals or ambitions? Are they where they desire to be? What would they like to change - about the company or themselves? Where do you draw motivation?

You don’t only grow specific skillsets when you’re doing an internship, you grow as a person, you learn to set goals for yourself and you figure out a way to accomplish it. You get to listen into how someone could have done something better, learn from their mistakes and invest your time into more fulfilling tasks.

One of the offices I was interning at, with a view I was grateful for every single day.

2. Ask for shadowing opportunities

Rather than just hearing about stories, ask for opportunities to see some action – How would a leader function under stressful situations? What do they prioritise? How do they juggle between so many tasks? How do they treat people? These are all the things you can learn just by observing.

Every boss would want you to extract as much information or experiences as you can from your short tenure. So, if you have time on your hands, you can always just ask if it’s possible to shadow your boss more personally or even any other manager available.

If you’re constantly busy, you can always just request to sit in a meeting of a different team (maybe even offer to take minutes!). It’s not just a meeting, but you can learn how people organise their presentation slides and how they arrange the flow of information (to help with your own future presentations).

You’ll learn how a team brainstorms for fresh ideas, you come to understand how people build on one another and come to a final decision. You get to witness how a leader facilitates a discussion (which is very helpful for your group assignments). You would be able to see how different personalities can compromise, agree with and work with each other.

In fact, you can even ask for extra tasks! (Why would I ask for more work? Gasp!) If you have an extra set of hands, volunteering yourself for a short assignment exposes you to different job scopes. If you don’t like your role in particular, you do not need to cross out that company and decide that it’s not “for you”. There are many other things that might interest you, likewise, even if you have already started in a company and realise your current role isn’t “your cup of tea”, you can always request for internal transfers rather than just quitting your job immediately, as staying in a company for a long time comes with its own benefits.

3. Set reasonable goals

Your goals should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound.

Okay yeah, sounds boring but this could just be a guideline for you to set your goals even as simple as translating 5 manuscripts by the end of the day.

In such a way, you can keep track of your growth and it also shows your bosses that you are driven. It also gives you clarity – sometimes as an intern, you’re running around completing tasks like a headless chicken. You may not be included in the whole project but only get to do bits and pieces and complete little tasks, which doesn’t give you a full picture of what you have been doing and how you’ve been contributing to something bigger. However, when you have goals and you are aware of how your work supports the entire team, you would feel motivated.

One year after my internship, I was invited to return as a social ambassador for an event – which was a really good opportunity!

4. Ask about the company culture

If you intend to stay in a company for a long time, its benefits and perks matter far less than its values. When your personal values align with those of an organisation, you are able to commit and be proud of the work that you’re doing. On the other hand, when they have no values, or different values than yours, you’d be dragging your feet to work every single day, exhausted and tired.

More importantly, you have to ensure that their values aren’t just a good-looking artwork on their website but how are these values translated into everyday tasks? Do the bosses and employees actually uphold such values?

5. Stay in touch

My team when I was interning at PwC – who guided, helped and

encouraged me in the short tenure.

Last but not least, at the end of your tenure, make sure to keep in touch - especially on LinkedIn, it’s always good to have these connections. For example, if ever you’re organising an event in your next company or university and need sponsors, you can always reach out to the companies you have interned with. You have built a rapport and they trust and want to support you.

They also act as good references for your next job - they would be more than happy to add a good word for you because they have seen how you work and how you’ve grown.

Imagine a target board, when you’re asking random questions for the sake of it, you’re throwing darts everywhere – they may or may not pin themselves on a board. But when you’re intentional about it, asking the right questions is like hitting the bullseye!

All the best!

You may find out more about Chloe on her Instagram too!

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