Five Mantras For A Successful Internship

Posted on April 10, 2013 in Education

By Anne John: 

A recent survey by Women’s Web on the career aspirations of young women in India threw up several interesting findings. The study gives us a peek into the bright young minds of today and an insight into their career plans for the future. One of the points that caught my eye was the high number of women who stressed the need for internships; in fact, 48% of those surveyed had already gone through 1 or 2 internships in their chosen area of interest.

Internships are indeed a great way to polish your career skills. A solid internship is a positive addition to your resume and it gives you an opportunity to test the waters of your chosen career before actually taking the plunge. For instance, when I decided on a career shift from IT to journalism, I initially started off as an intern with Women’s Web. This helped me get a foot in the door and paved the way to my current full-time role.

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In many ways, an internship is your first baby step into the real world. It is certainly encouraging to note that an increasing number of young women today are interested in taking up internships. But the true value of your internship lies in your attitude and approach to it. Here are 5 mantras that will help you have a successful learning experience at your internship.

1. Show initiative: Our Indian educational system is notorious for spoon feeding its students. This practice leaves youngsters lacking in essential life skills when they join the workforce. While mentors might be available to guide you at work, there is no scope for continuous hand holding in the workplace. Hence it is up to you to be proactive and show initiative in completing tasks assigned to you. If you plan to simply wait passively for work to come your way, chances are you will end up with very little to take away from your internship. Instead, identify what your goals are; having a clear picture of what you hope to gain from the internship will help you figure out what you would like to do and actively seek out engaging prospects for learning and growth.

2. Be ready to grab opportunities: As the saying goes ‘Opportunity knocks once’. So it makes sense to be prepared. Being rigid and limiting yourself will not help you in the long run. Of course, just because you are an intern doesn’t mean that you allow yourself to be treated like a doormat; but be open to trying out new things even if you were not expecting it to be part of your internship initially. Instead of right away rejecting tasks that come your way because you suspect that they might not suit you, learn to be flexible and don’t be afraid to take a chance — who knows, you might actually surprise yourself and start enjoying it!

3. Be a professional: I’ve worked with a handful of interns so far and one thing that I’ve noticed is that many interns come in to work with their “college” mentality intact. Sure, I understand that you are still a student — but please treat internships as legitimate work and take it seriously. Sloppy work, delayed timelines, failure to maintain decorum, skipping meetings, being AWOL — all these are part and parcel of college life but unfortunately translate to unprofessional-ism in the corporate world. Do not treat your internship as an extension of college. Rather, view it as the beginning of your career; a great start will ensure that you stay one step ahead of the competition.

4. Communicate: Let’s face it — interns are somewhere in the lower rungs of corporate hierarchy. Bombarded with targets and deadlines, it is quite easy for your co-workers to forget that you exist — unless you make your presence count. If you have completed a task that was assigned to you ahead of time, don’t just wait for your supervisor to come back and check with you. Inform him that you are done and ask for your next assignment. Keep your supervisor in the loop and keep them updated on your progress or any difficulties that you may be facing. If you have any questions, speak up and voice your concerns. Keep track of the work you’ve done and submit regular reports.

5. Network: The survey also highlighted the fact that young Indian women are hesitant to network at work. Efficient networking is a learned art. Nevertheless, it can be an important tool in furthering your career. Do not underestimate the importance of a robust professional network. Observe the people around you and strike up conversations when you notice that someone is a little free. Of course, it goes without saying that you need to be careful not to annoy them with inane small talk when they are really overloaded with work. If you find someone struggling with their work load, offer to help out. Be polite and do something nice for your co-workers. You don’t need to bend over backwards to please everyone but simple gestures — like bringing in a basket of cookies to share on a Monday morning — will brighten up everyone’s day. Build lasting relationships and remember to stay connected even after your internship is over.

Armed with these pointers I am sure that you will have a useful and memorable internship. Keep learning but don’t forget to have fun too!

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