As the summer comes to an end, so do the internships of many students who are headed back to school for the semester. There’s no doubt that an internship presents a great opportunity for learning. It’s the best way to obtain real-life, hands-on experience, beyond what is taught in the classroom.
And they continue to grow in popularity: According to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), 65% of bachelor’s degree graduates from the Class of 2015 had participated in an internship and/or co-op.
Before he takes off for his senior year at Ramapo College, I asked our intern Max to share five lessons that he learned during his time here at Balance Point. His responses were honest and insightful. I think they are useful for anyone in the workforce.
Having a well-planned schedule is essential.
At school you are handed a schedule with classes and a syllabus that outlines the entire class down to the specific time of day when things are due. Work is different, when you are given something to do, you must do it to the best of your ability and in a timely matter—but none of this is specified. That is why it is paramount that you have some form of a planner to have your day and week laid out. Scheduling conflicts are unprofessional, and easy to avoid if the necessary steps to eliminate them are taken. Nothing says you are not fit to run a business than double booking a meeting, or forgetting you even had one in the first place.
Communication is important.
Day to day conversations between associates might seem intimidating at first, however in the business world, these interactions should come second nature. They later become the foundation to build a solid network of trusted business relationships. You may not realize how important effective communication it is until you run into a situation where miscommunication leads to an undesired outcome. In my second week on the job, I was tasked with a simple research project. I thought I had the materials I needed to begin, but then realized half way into it that I had overlooked an important piece of information. As a result, I had to redo most of my efforts. But I did learn a valuable lesson.
When given a project or assignment, know the details.
As an intern you will be thrown around a lot into new and unfamiliar places. One day you could be making copies and balancing spreadsheets, and the next you could be out in the field closing on a deal. Regardless of the situation, it’s important that you know exactly what your role is and what you should be doing. It can seem intimidating to be in a new environment with people who have been doing their job for quite some time. But, all those people know you are an intern and the only way you will gain experience is by performing to your fullest potential. Asking relevant questions helps reaffirm things you might not be too sure on; this is something I wish I did when it came to the research project mentioned above. The old adage holds true here: “you should never be too afraid to ask.” Here are some tip to help you:
- When given an assignment, in your own words reiterate exactly what you will be doing.
- If there is something you are unsure of, ask about it. Or ask related questions.
- Plan your day out, and budget time to each project/activity you have to do for that day.
You’re going to learn a lot, it can’t hurt to write things down.
With the new internship comes a slew of useful information. There could be something yesterday that a co-worker told you that could be tremendously helpful when researching or even just writing new reports. Any job in any industry requires a certain amount of expertise that can only be attained though experience, this is where you as the intern are left in the dust. The best way to make up for lack of real world experience is to pay attention to detail, and try to remember all the new information that is being thrown at you. I have found it extremely useful to take notes whenever I am able.
Have a good time, after all it is a learning experience!
No internship is perfect, however with any facet of life, it is imperative to “get as much out of it” as you can. There will be days that are better than others, and you will have to do certain things that you do not like doing, but that is all part of the learning experience. At your internship you will meet great professional people that you will be able to network with. Also, do not hesitate to do things outside of the work day with your work peers. Some of the best memories I have made at my internship occurred outside the office, from going out into the field to company picnics; it is summer after all and what summer is complete without a proper BBQ.