I’ve landed a few really great internships—but there have also been some major duds. Day after day of copying papers, sharpening pencils, and making coffee is exhausting—and, mostly, completely useless to a future career.
I’ve realized, though, that this doesn’t mean internships like this are a complete waste. Instead of dragging your feet from the printer to the sharpener and back for a seemingly endless 8 hours, use these four simple tactics to make your internship worth your while.
1. Schedule Lunch With Employees
There are so many smart and successful people where you work (I hope). Take advantage of your internship and schedule lunches with people you want to learn from.
While this tactic has led to me stressing relentlessly about having garlic breath and spinach in my teeth, the payoff is worth it. I’ve eaten with coworkers doing social media, public relations, and more, receiving valuable advice from these forerunners in fields I’m interested in.
For these lunches, come with a list of questions—and a plan for where you’re going and what to eat (remember, you can brown bag it to save money). If your coworker can connect you with other leaders in his or her field, don’t be afraid to ask politely for that contact information. Making new connections will help you grow your network and possibly find work that you otherwise wouldn’t know about.
2. Talk With Recruiting And Your Manager
Recruiters look at résumés and applications for a living. So, if your company has a recruiting team, try to get some time with someone on it. I scheduled a meeting with a recruiter at my current internship to look over my résumé and talk about interviewing tactics.
I also scheduled time with my manager to assess my performance. Getting feedback let me know what I need to work on from the perspective of an employer. Seeking out this opportunity also shows that you care about the quality of your work. Plus, if you’re just sharpening pencils, it’s a great opportunity to ask for more responsibility.
3. Bolster Your Reading List
Ask your manager and other people you work with about the blogs or resources they read or subscribe to.
By doing this, I’ve learned that rubbing tiger balm on your forehead is great for headaches, as well as why science-fiction writers are good at predicting the future. (I’ve also gotten a great education on content marketing.)
Keeping up with the industry you work in will impress your bosses, help you generate new ideas, and give you information to impress future employers with as well.
4. Attend Meetings
Ask if you can sit in on meetings. This will help you understand how the company you’re working for functions.
I bring a notebook and pen with me to all of these—no matter what they’re about. Instead of doodling pineapples when I don’t understand something, I list the vocabulary I need to learn and questions I have for my manager.
Attending meetings will also help you assess the needs of the company, which might potentially be a good selling point if you want to work there once your internship ends.
How have you made the most of a less-than-ideal internship? Share your tips in the comments.
(Photo: Patrick Gage)