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.
Published May 6, 2022
Our Review Network
BestColleges is committed to delivering content that is objective and accurate. We have built a network of industry professionals across healthcare and education to review our content and ensure we are providing the best information to our readers.
With their first-hand industry experience, our reviewers provide an extra step in our editing process. These experts:
- Suggest changes to inaccurate or misleading information.
- Provide specific, corrective feedback.
- Identify critical information that writers may have missed.
Our growing Review Network currently consists of professionals in fields like business, nursing, social work, and other subject-specific industries; professionals in higher education areas such as college counseling and financial aid; and anti-bias reviewers.
Reviewers typically work full time in their industry profession and review content for BestColleges as a side project. Our reviewers are members of the Red Ventures Education Freelance Review Network and are paid for their contributions.
- An internship provides an excellent way to gain work experience before graduation.
- Students can participate in internships to meet course credit requirements.
- Networking can serve as an effective way to turn an internship into a permanent job.
- A successful internship gives a student an opportunity to gain one or more skills.
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.
www.bestcolleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.
Ready to start your journey?
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:
- Turn the internship into a full-time job after graduation.
- Establish a relationship with a mentor.
- Give a presentation on a completed project.
- Demonstrate at least three leadership skills.
- Master at least one technical skill.
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 Legal (and Worth It)?
How to Apply for an Internship
BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.
Compare your school options.
View the most relevant school for your interests and compare them by tuition, programs, acceptance rate, and other factors important to find your college home.