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Making the Most of Your Internship

Now that you have survived a competitive recruiting process and landed an internship in the field of your choice, your tendency might be to lean back and enjoy the ride. Nothing could be more certain to result in a disappointing experience for both you and your employer. While your role as an intern can be strictly or loosely defined, you should arrive at the doorstep of your internship with the attitude that you alone are responsible for making your internship an enjoyable and rewarding experience.

Below are tips on how you can capitalize on your experience and make the most of your internship.

Set Goals: Before you accepted your internship you hopefully investigated the kind of work you would be doing and clarified your employer's expectations. With this information, you should set goals about what you hope to leave your internship having learned or done. Share your ambitions with the person or persons monitoring your work and monitor your progress toward this goal throughout your internship.

Immerse Yourself: Learn as much as you can about the industry or organization with which you are working. Read trade journals, interact with people in different departments, and throw yourself into your assignments. Go above and beyond the call of duty.

Always Do Your Best Work: Even when doing clerical work or rote tasks, do not complain or slack off. Keep in mind that your supervisors need to know you are capable of small things before they trust you with substantive tasks. Give all your work your best effort.

Take Initiative
: Seek out opportunities to learn. Do the work you are assigned, but don't wait to be asked to participate in activities you find interesting. Ask questions and try to sit in on meetings where decisions are made. By learning about the context in which your work takes place, you have the opportunity to appreciate the role you play as well as become involved in special projects.

Locate a Mentor: In the early stages of your internship, find a mentor who is open to meeting with you on a regular basis. Try to have a standing lunch date every other Friday, for example. Ideally, this person is the one who is monitoring your work, but you might choose someone who happens to be engaged in interesting work or expresses special interest in enriching your experience.

Ask this person questions about his or her career and what makes them excited to be working for the firm or organization.

Be Professional: Dress appropriately for work and arrive on time. Observe how colleagues interact with each other, but be respectful of your place as an intern. Be sensitive to the fact that administrative staff or other entry-level employees might resent that you appear to have "leapfrogged" over them. Do not gossip about coworkers, play office politics, or conduct personal business on company time or with company resources, even if you see others engaged in that behavior. Even in moments of stress, maintain a positive attitude.

Reflect on your Experience: Throughout your internship reflect on what you are observing and doing. Are you meeting your goals? Analyze what you like or dislike about the work you are doing.

Are you excited about the industry or function you are performing? Does this work suit your talent and temperament? Assess how your internship has impacted your career goals. Where do you want to go from here?
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