How to Make the Most of Your Internship

Before entering the workforce, students can gain real-world experience through an internship. Learn how to have a great internship experience.

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by Juliann Scholl, Ph.D.

Published on May 6, 2022

Reviewed by Lauren Albano, M.Ed.

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How to Make the Most of Your Internship
Image Credit: 10'000 Hours / DigitalVision / Getty Images


About 75% of college students participate in an internship at some point before graduation. Many students use internships to earn academic credit and gain work-related experience unattainable through classroom instruction. They can also use this experience to confirm their interest in their chosen careers.

An internship doesn't always turn into a permanent position. However, you can make the most of this opportunity. Interns gain valuable skills that they can use in the workplace and put on their resume.

To benefit from internships, students should know what they hope to gain from the experience. They should also use this time to make professional connections and acquire tangible skills.

Set Goals for Your Internship

Students who set one or more goals will more likely know what they can expect or gain from their internships. In addition to developing their own objectives, they may meet with their mentor or supervisor for guidance. A supervisor can also clarify expectations that come with the internship opportunity.

Goals should include clear milestones or deadlines. For example, students might have an overall goal to accomplish at the end of the internship, but their supervisor might also suggest weekly or daily objectives.

In addition, students should ensure they receive regular, constructive feedback on their progress. Consider the following goal examples:

7 Tips for a Successful Internship

Successful internships do not just happen on their own. Students can benefit from these opportunities by keeping specific strategies in mind.

1. Be Professional

Treat your internships as actual jobs with expectations for professional conduct and personal behavior. Dress appropriately and show up on time. Greet co-workers and engage in conversation, but avoid gossip and office politics.

In the age of social media, where individuals face backlash and lose jobs, you must cultivate a businesslike online presence. Clean up your Facebook and Twitter profiles, and update your LinkedIn information.

Being professional also means staying off your phone while on the job.

2. Soak Up Knowledge

Internships are learning experiences that allow students to soak up as much knowledge and as many practical skills as they can. Effective interns cultivate skills and knowledge beyond their immediate role.

They stay updated on industry trends by exploring online platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Reddit. Students can also learn about pertinent issues in their field by asking questions, reading professional magazines and research journals, and attending events.

3. Learn a New Skill

Students should use their internship opportunities to learn skills essential to their chosen fields. Some career tracks require extensive technical aptitude. And students may not get the chance to master such skills in a classroom setting.

When they enter the job market, applicants typically need to demonstrate these proficiencies before employers consider hiring them.

Internships also allow learners to acquire soft skills, such as critical thinking, communication, problem-solving, time management, and conflict management. Employees who demonstrate job-appropriate soft skills often show they can work with others and contribute positively to their workplace cultures.

4. Build Professional Relationships

One of the benefits of an internship is networking with employees and other interns. Networking can help people learn about job opportunities, solve task-related problems, advance their careers, and enjoy their work.

Upon completing an internship, networking relationships can help students stay in contact with colleagues, other interns, and supervisors. These connections can prove helpful to someone looking for employment or needing advice on a job-related problem.

5. Find a Mentor

Some mentorships develop naturally out of the working relationships between interns and their supervisors. However, many interns have to seek out a mentor themselves. Try to attend every social and networking event your organization facilitates.

Focus your attention on the individuals who take a concerted interest in your success. Ask potential mentors out for coffee or lunch. It may seem intimidating, but it's well worth the time and effort.

6. Socialize With Your Co-workers

In addition to engaging in formal introductions, you should socialize as appropriate with your colleagues to build camaraderie. Work friendships can help you succeed in your internship. And they can build the groundwork for career entry and advancement later on.

You can forge work friendships by completing your own tasks and assisting others with their duties. At the same time, co-workers may view you as helpful, hardworking, and trustworthy.

7. Ask Questions and Seek Feedback

You should not shy away from asking specific and appropriate questions of your colleagues and supervisors. The act of asking signals to the company's leaders that you want to grow and succeed. At the same time, it's important to be mindful about the questions you ask.

Questions should be purposeful and consequential. Don't ask questions just for the sake of asking questions.

Lastly, the best interns ask for feedback from supervisors and colleagues. Take any criticism with grace. And apply the lessons in future assignments.

How to Turn an Internship Into a Job Offer

A successful internship can turn into permanent work, especially for students who use the opportunity to build their skills and demonstrate their professionalism. Individuals can do several things to leverage their internship into a post-graduation job.

Gladly Perform Intern-Level Work

In return for valuable training and professional experiences, companies expect interns to perform menial tasks. One of the easiest ways interns can establish credibility is by handling grunt work with enthusiasm and meeting deadlines on time.

Ask your supervisor to schedule regular meetings to discuss projects, clarify expectations, and confirm deadlines. By demonstrating that they can successfully complete the most basic duties, interns gain access to more important responsibilities.

Go Above and Beyond

The most successful interns tend to do more than merely meet expectations. They generally work hard to exceed the requirements of their position. Prospective employers want to hire people who will show extra initiative to get the work done efficiently and promptly.

Interns can do several things to go above and beyond in their jobs:

  • Ask for more work when a lull in the workday exists.
  • Complete projects well in advance of deadlines.
  • Meet and interact with colleagues outside of their branch or department.
  • Show punctuality and reliability by arriving early, not just on time, for the workday or meetings.
  • Ask thoughtful questions that suggest the desire to do a task well, not just sufficiently.
  • Take actionable steps to respond to feedback.

Ask for a Job

Interns can appropriately express interest in continued employment with a company. Not all supervisors think about recruiting their interns proactively. So it can pay off for students to express interest.

Interns may present a more persuasive case if they wait until they have demonstrated competence instead of asking for a job early on.

Toward the end of the term, you might schedule a conversation with your mentor and discuss your career goals and a possible future with the company.

Are unpaid internships worth it? Are they legal? Students unsure whether they can afford an internship need the right information and latest data. An internship can give students vital professional experience. Learn how to apply for an internship and craft an engaging resume and cover letter. Learn how to write an email asking for an internship and read an example internship request.

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