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6 steps to get the most out of your internship (Guest post by Hays)

There are many reasons to apply for an internship whilst you’re at university. First and foremost, an internship is an opportunity for you to get some invaluable experience in a working environment related to your field of study. Internships in the UK and Ireland last for anywhere from a week through to a year. Some are unpaid, although most will at least cover your basic expenses.

Most undergraduates regard internships as a necessary stepping stone before embarking on a permanent career.  Likewise the majority of employers expect you to have completed an internship before applying for a permanent job post-graduation.

Lauren Inayat, who’s currently interning in one of our London offices, believes that internships are important because they help you stand out from the crowd. “An internship gives you the competitive edge on other job seekers. You gain hands on experience within a commercial environment and gain invaluable skills that support both your personal and professional development,” she says.

Whilst internships are valued for a few different reasons – developing skills, learning about a new industry, networking, seeking a permanent role within that company or simply avoiding having a gap on your CV – there are a number of best practices that everyone can benefit from:

1. Ask yourself what you want from the internship

Before you begin on your internship you need to establish exactly what it is that you intend to get from it. So, firstly, only apply for internships that relate to your long-term career plans. And, secondly, once you’ve found the right internship, sit down with the hiring manager and establish what your responsibilities are going to be and how you are going to spend the majority of your time.

For example at Hays we have a warm welcome and induction organised for the intern’s first day in the role, provided by one of our internal recruiters. During this induction interns are introduced to other employees within the business, thus imbedding them within the business as quickly as possible.

You need to ask yourself what you want from the internship. Are you hoping to be offered a permanent position in the company in question? If so, dress smartly, arrive early and volunteer a hand wherever you can.

If, however, you intend to treat your internship as a trial period of your chosen industry then I would recommend spending more time experiencing different departments within the business, if there is an option to do so.

2. Seek out a mentor and build a strong relationship

It’s important to have some structure to your internship. Having a mentor is one way to achieve this. If you don’t want to be on tea duty throughout your internship and you want to learn all that you can then ally yourself with someone who’s well established in the business and involved in exciting projects.

A mentor will help your development and understanding of the business, which will put you in good stead to kick start your career once you graduate.

At Hays we ensure all our interns our provided with a mentor, something which Lauren Inayat has found very useful, “My mentor has been amazing. Not only have they made me feel welcome and comfortable within the team, they also communicate their expectations of me during my internship – supporting me in achieving all I can with Hays”.

3. Roll your sleeves up, get stuck in and enjoy it

The two principal purposes of an internship as I see them are to learn and to network. You can do both of these by getting involved wherever possible. This means volunteering for interesting projects, participating in social events and absorbing all that you can about the business’ operations, culture and structure.

You won’t be expected to know everything as an intern. A business with experience of hiring interns will allow for your lack of expertise, so don’t beat yourself up when you make a mistake but learn from them and make sure they’re not repeated.

4. Connect with people

Internships are a great opportunity to connect with professionals who have greater expertise and a wider network than you do. Introduce yourself to as many people as possible and become a familiar face around the office. Ensuring that you’re subjected to such a level of exposure helps to accelerate your professional development significantly.

The best way to develop strong relationships is through exhibiting what a competent, motivated and positive individual you are. Remember to cement your relationships by adding each colleague to your LinkedIn network.

5. Stay professional

It can be easy as one of the most junior employees within the company to develop an inferiority complex. Routinely running out to purchase snacks for meetings can understandably make you feel slightly undervalued.

Keep your chin up and recognise that these sort of trivial errands are all part of the job; do them dutifully and save your energy and talent for the tasks that matter. Every successful professional had to start somewhere.

6. Acquire referrals

Finally, it’s crucial that you receive acknowledgement for all your hard work that you can use when applying for future positions. A kind few words from your mentor can go a long way to securing you a long-term position elsewhere. Ask them if they mind being put down on your CV as a reference to contact, or even whether they can give you a short write-up on LinkedIn.

A final thought

It often takes one or two – sometimes more – internships in different industries before you realise what it is you want to do for the rest of your life. You should be spending your internship assessing whether this really is the role that you want to do for the next five decades. If it isn’t then move on and try your hand at something else.

Internships are an opportunity for you to develop your knowledge and professional persona without the distraction of too much pressure or too many expectations. There is much that you can get out of an internship, and hopefully the above information will help you maximise your return.

– Originally posted on https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/6-steps-get-most-out-your-internship-jenna-alexander

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