Guest post by Paula
How to turn an internship into a career
It’s no secret that internships can be the best way to get your foot in the door. The job market for graduates is becoming increasingly competitive, and the best way to get noticed is to be 22 years old and have 25 years of experience under your belt.
And although it’s hard to get excited about the prospect of unpaid work, especially in return for just a reference, your internship can be the start of an incredible career if you go about it the right way.
1. Learn to network
The most valuable thing you’ll get out of any role, whether you’re an intern or a CEO, is the people you’ll meet along the way. You’ll meet people that inspire and motivate you, as well as people that teach you valuable lessons. You’ll probably also meet people you don’t work well with, which will be a lesson on its own in that you’ll have to exercise adaptability and tolerance.
Your internship is essentially the starting point of your professional network that will continuously grow, so take advantage of it while you can.
If you haven’t got a LinkedIn, sign up now. It may seem a little pointless and uneventful at first, but think of it as a virtual, cloud-based resume that’ll grow over time as you move up in your career. With each new role, you’ll have a new job title, new connections, and new skills to add.
Connect with people you work with and follow both people and companies you admire. It’s a great way to stay updated with your industry and find job opportunities that may be a great fit for you.89% of recruiters report to have hired someone via LinkedIn so keep your eyes peeled for what may be the next move in your career.
2. Be proactive
If you want to turn your internship into a career, don’t show up and work through a to-do list. The best interns (and the ones that get hired or referred) are those who bring ideas to the table, take initiative, and proactively try to solve problems on their own with the resources they have before asking for help.
On that note, before you go rogue, do some research and ensure that you’re making data-driven decisions, rather than going off a gut feeling. Prepare a strategy and bring this to your employer or manager before executing it — not because you’re unqualified to do the job, but because an efficient and effective company needs to have everyone on the same page.
Fail + learn =flearn.
Learning from your mistakes is the key to turning your internship into a career (and to having a successful career in the future). The ability to take on constructive feedback as a positive and developmental piece of information can go a long way. It’ll help with your personal, skill, and career development, and will also help you move on from your failures rather than dwelling on them or giving up entirely.
There’s no better time to work on your ability to flearn than during an internship. The whole point of work experience is to learn new things that you can apply later on in your career, and you won’t learn nearly as much if you play it safe and practice what you already know.
4. Exceed expectations
Come into your internship with a goal to over-deliver. Whether you get hired or not, exceeding your employers’ expectations will leave a lasting impression that may help you with your career later on.
Aside from being proactive, this is where your professional attributes should really come into play. Whether you have amazing communication skills, are extremely organised, or simply have a positive attitude, make sure you showcase these qualities and deliver more than is expected of you.
5. Don’t just do it for the reference
With the pressure to get some kind of work experience before you graduate, a lot of people will take any internship they can get in order to build on their resume.
If you really want to turn your internship into career, you need to approach it with the right attitude. It’s sometimes hard when you’re not getting paid for your hard work, but remember that everyone has to start someone and try to focus on learning as much as possible.
Paula is the founder of Joobly, an initiative that aims to connect aspiring student interns to tech startups in Sydney. She majors in Business Information Systems at Macquarie University.