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How To Ace Your Next Internship

“We are pleased to welcome you to the team…”. A sigh of relief and a weight lifts off your shoulders – after rounds upon rounds of interviews and tests, that coveted summer internship or dream industry attachment is finally yours.

But then, anxiety bubbles again. While the seemingly worst is over, beginning in a new environment can be intimidating and stressful. However, go prepared and you’ll fit in just fine. Here are some golden tips to make a lasting impression at your new internship:

Before the big day

Aside from recalibrating your internal clock and mentally preparing for the rigours of working life, there are some practical and personal aspects to consider before the first day on the job.

1.   Research the company

If you haven’t already stalked your company online, now’s a great time to do so. Gaining a basic understanding of your company, its clients, and different business functions allows for an easier integration into your new working environment. This will also help you ask the right questions to the right people when the time comes.

Doing your due diligence before you start your internship reflects well on your attitude. It displays proactivity and genuine interest to learn more about the company and the part you play in it.

2.   Set personal goals

While it may be too early to have a concrete idea about what to expect, it’s always good to start thinking about what you wish to get out of this experience. Think back to when you first applied – did you want to gain knowledge about the particular industry? Or would you like to master some technical skills for the role?

As a rule of thumb, keep your goal specific, realistic and time-bound. For example, a short-term goal could be to master how to evaluate web traffic via Google Analytics within the first month at work.

Goal setting creates a productive path to follow throughout your internship journey and ensures that your personal career expectations can be successfully met at its end.

3.   Study the new surroundings

Whatever your working arrangements are, get familiar with the logistics of the new job.

Those allowed back in the office can research your new office location and if possible, do a few test trips to estimate the travel time.You could also ping your supervisor to enquire about any strict dress codes or what you can prepare before the first day.

Those with flexible or work-from-home (WFH) schedules can start prepping their workspace and testing any electronic devices needed for the job.

Familiarising yourself with your soon-to-be work environment takes worrying about the nitty gritty off the table, easing your transition into the new job.

During the internship

Internships are a great way to network with like-minded peers and mentors, develop practical skills and discover yourself along the way. Here’s how to make the best of your upcoming internship:

1.   Be curious

As an intern, besides assisting the team as per your job scope, your role is to absorb as much as possible from the get-go and start honing new useful skills.

Remember, you’re new so no one is expecting you to impress them with fantastic work in your first few weeks. During this period, ask loads of questions – even ones you think are obvious – and note them down. It’s better to be 100% certain than to make an error that could hinder the team’s overall productivity or affect an ongoing project.

2.   Be proactive

If you find yourself being underloaded with work or are simply interested to learn more about another department’s work, don’t hesitate to reach out to your supervisor or teammates to ask if there are other tasks you can work on.

Being proactive highlights your enthusiasm to learn and employers love that. Being the first to reach out to your colleagues can also give you added insight into the various job functions at your company, the industry at large and help you make more useful professional connections.

3.   Know your limits

Being proactive does not mean that you need to overwhelm yourself with new work. Be mindful of what you take on and focus on providing the highest quality of work.

Depending on your work style and schedule, estimate how many tasks you can comfortably complete in a day while keeping in mind to block out small chunks of time for essential breaks. This prevents burnout and unnecessary stress, especially if you’re cooped up at home working remotely.

If you feel that you’re being overloaded, first ask yourself if you could be managing your time better. If personal circumstances are not the case, approach your supervisor and tactfully explain your situation. You can then discuss how the work could be better divided with the rest of the team.

4.   Make new friends and connections

People are at the heart of every successful business. On your first day take the initiative to approach your colleagues. One way is to send out a company-wide introductory email which could include conversation starters like hobbies and professional interests.

You’ll likely be interacting with more and more of your coworkers across different departments the longer you work there. Cultivating a good-natured relationship with each of them not only makes working a little more fun, but also gives you the opportunity to learn from them and them from you.

Networking is also highly valuable because you never know when having a specific connection could benefit you in the future.

After the internship

Congratulations! You’ve come to the end of your internship and are on your way towards real #adulting. Hopefully your experience has been fruitful and you’ve learnt a lot about yourself, your career interests and the company.

Before going on that much-needed vacay though, here’s some things to check-off to wrap up the whole internship experience:

1.   Reflect

Look back on your days as an intern, how are you feeling now compared to when you first started? What have you gleaned about your role and the company? What are some things you think you did well and what are some that you could improve on?

Engaging in some post-internship introspection can help you gain a clearer understanding on which direction to take regarding your future career and also how you can improve as a person.

2.   Express gratitude

Lastly, convey your thanks to your employers and teammates or anyone who has impacted you in some way during your internship.

Consider sending over a box of sweet treats, customising and gifting trinkets or giving out handwritten letters if you have the privilege of working in the office. Those working remotely can express gratitude similarly through a heartfelt, personalised email addressed to all the coworkers on your accounts.

Along with these notes of appreciation, offer to keep in touch and actually do so when the opportunity arises.

Here’s wishing you the best of luck in your next life chapter. Whatever the case, be yourself and let your unique personality and strengths shine through – they’re what got you in there in the first place.

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