How to ace your summer internship

By Lori Youmshajekian  Monday, 17 December 2018  @Business School

​Trading in your beach days for coffee runs this month? Summer internships are just around the corner and we know how stressful it can be to get your foot in the door, network with other professionals and land that full-time position.

To help you make the most of the experience, we caught up with our resident career expert, Blair Slater from UNSW Careers and Employment, to talk all things internships.

Here's what he had to say for students wanting to hit the ground running:

Find out if the organisation is right for you

An internship is a trial-run for both you and the company. They will be assessing if you're the right fit for the organisation and it's your chance to put them to the test as well.

"It's a great opportunity for students to suss out whether or not they enjoy that work environment and culture, with the work that they would be doing", Blair said.

"Also, organizations get to know you and see whether they might want to bring you on in a full-time capacity."

Make yourself known

Take the opportunity to build your network beyond just your supervisor.

"The more people who know you, and the more people you create a favourable impression upon, the better", Blair said.

"In order to give yourself the best chance of getting a position with the company that you're having an internship with, it really helps to get known among colleagues."

"Not only your direct supervisor but a lot of the other colleagues that you will be working with will be involved in that process of decision making on who they may make offers to."

Think about your future career

Before you even start, have a plan for what you want to achieve from the internship. Pinpoint your goals by thinking long-term about your career and where your internship fits in.

"Look at a position that you might like once you graduate. Look at the experience that employers are looking for and look to see how you can obtain those skills and experience in your internship", Blair said.

"The whole idea of an internship as well is for you to acquire valuable skills and experience that you can hopefully use for a future career path."

"You can go to your supervisor and say, how might I be able to acquire these skills and experiences, and you can potentially look at ways to build those up."

Remember names

Tackling your first day of an internship can always be intimidating. There are lots of names and lots of people to meet.

"I would strongly suggest taking a notebook", Blair said.

"Yes, you can write things down on your phone, but your supervisor might really not know whether you're texting someone else for help or whether you're taking notes, so take a notebook to write down people's names."

Speak up, ask questions and be clear with your intentions

Signal to your supervisor that you're interested in the role by asking informed questions and contributing to discussions.

"Have a sense of curiosity by asking questions and also show that you are proactive", Blair said.

"I would make it known to your supervisor and other colleagues about how eager you are to potentially work in that organization."

"Make your intentions known. Don't ask right away for a full -time position but say, 'if I'd like to continue in this position, what would be some recommendations that you might have for me'. That way you're alerting your supervisor to your intentions and you're also asking them for some valuable insight along those lines."

Hold information interviews

You will be surrounded by people with a wealth of experience, and organising information interviews with them will be one of the most valuable parts of your internship.

"An information interview is whereby you would ask colleagues within the organization about their career background and their career insights. They have obviously proven to be successful in that organization. That's why they're there," Blair said.

"Ask some of them for advice and tips and you never know, they may have vacancies in their division and at least you're on their radar for potential future positions."

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