Business schools abound with stories of motivated interns landing lucrative positions after graduation. But there are also stories of interns who sweat out the summer in a cubicle without ever receiving a significant assignment. How do you ensure that you end up in the internship that is right for you? These are some signs that indicate your internship is on the right track:
1. You have a thorough training program when you start.
You want an internship that involves real responsibilities and opportunities. Logically, an employer offering such a position will want to take some time to prepare you for those things. And it is only fair for you to expect adequate preparation for the challenges you will face during the summer. An internship without a thorough training program is a red flag.
2. Your supervisors take you to networking events.
Just like the school year, the summer is a key time to build your professional network. An internship is a short-term commitment, but if you play your cards right, it can lead to a full-time job. Often, that job offer will come from your supervisor, but you never really know where you will end up after school. And in some industries, interns rarely receive job offers, so it is vital to expand your professional network through every available avenue.
3. Your supervisor asks what you want to learn from the internship.
You should have clear goals for your summer internship, and you should clearly communicate them to those around you. If your supervisor expresses interest in understanding and helping you to achieve those goals, that is definitely a positive sign. If your supervisor is dismissive or uninterested in your goals, something is wrong with the situation. Just as your supervisor should have high expectations of you, you need to have high expectations of your internship.
4. There's camaraderie among interns.
A strong sense of shared purpose among interns will make for a more pleasant and fulfilling summer. Friendly competition can also be a positive part of the experience, but most people don't thrive in a cut-throat environment. You should be able to joke around with your fellow interns while working hard to get the job done. This kind of collaboration enhances everyone's experience.
5. You have assignments that you can own.
Perhaps the most important aspect of a summer internship is the opportunity to take ownership of one or more projects. This is how you demonstrate to your employer that you are prepared for a post-graduation position or, at the very least, a strong reference. You may have to demonstrate competence and motivation before your supervisor assigns sole responsibility for anything, so make sure to begin the summer giving more than is asked and looking for avenues toward greater responsibility. But also make sure your potential employer understands you are looking to take on projects of your own before accepting an internship.
If you follow these five tips, you are likely to end up with an internship that challenges you and provides real opportunities for success. But perhaps the most important piece of advice regarding internships is to look for an internship that just feels right. Though an internship is a short-term commitment, it could lead to a long-term opportunity. And while your career goals are professional on the surface, in a certain sense they are also very personal. Finding an employer with the right culture and values is just as important as finding an employer who pays well. So vet any potential internships from a professional standpoint first, but when it comes time to make a decision, trust your gut.
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