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How to make the most out of your internship

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The transition from university to the real world can be tough. When you're facing what seems like a mountain of work, with coursework deadlines and exams piling up, tackling the postgrad job hunt is pretty overwhelming. 

It might seem like everyone else is marketing themselves better than you are, with a strong LinkedIn page or even one step further with a fancy personal website. But don't panic, help is at hand. We discussed back in June some of the ways to prepare for work while still in university, which is a great start.

Now for the next step. If all goes well, for many graduates an internship beckons. But how do you ensure that this is actually a beneficial experience for you instead of becoming a lesson in how to fetch coffee and dry cleaning?

Below are some guidelines of things that you should consider before, during and after your internship in order to make sure that you get the most out of it.

Before: Devise a Clear Plan

Ask yourself before you even start what it is that you want to get out of the position; don't just leave it up to your supervisor to plan a programme for you. It's a good idea to bring up in the interview your concerns and expectations for the internship. You can even request to have brief weekly meetings with your supervisor in order to discuss your progress, as well as questions or concerns. This will not only ensure that you are learning, but that you are able to steer your internship back on the course that you want it to take if it has begun to get a little off-track.

Keep in mind, though, that a certain amount of grunt work is expected in an internship position. Do not be forceful and be sure to maintain a positive attitude, regardless of the work that you are being asked to do. However, discussing upfront the type of work that you would like to do and what you would like to learn in this internship is the best way to ward off receiving only menial work during your time with the company.

During: Write it all Down

Keeping track of your internship experience in a journal or blog is a good idea because it helps you make sense of what you are learning, and helps you to keep a detailed record of the work that you have performed. This information will prove to be invaluable in describing the experiences and skills you've gained in an interview with a possible future employer.

After: Maintain Connections

Networking while you are at the company is very important. Often companies hire new graduates upon completion of their internships. Once you move on, however, it is just as important to maintain contact. Follow up with your supervisor from time to time, follow the company on social media, and connect with former workers on LinkedIn.

It is also a good idea to request feedback and a reference before or shortly after completion of the internship. Years can go by in between this internship and you finding full-time employment. You want to be able to have a detailed review of your work and a reference letter to present when applying for a full-time position.

You can go a step further and ask for your supervisor to endorse you on your LinkedIn profile for the skills that you displayed in this role, and to even write a recommendation on either your LinkedIn profile or on your personal website. This goes a long way, not only to solidify you in the memory of this past employer, but also to lend credibility to your work abilities that future employers can see even before an interview.

Practice these few suggestions in your internship and you will leave feeling like you had an enriching experience and that you are better prepared for the workforce.




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