While any type of internship experience offers students the chance to both apply the skills they have learned in the classroom to a professional setting, as well as providing a window into the life of a working professional in that industry, there are a few additional proactive steps any intern can take to ensure their internship benefits as much as possible them in the future.
Deep Reflection on Non-Negotiables
Internships can certainly help confirm your interest in a specific type of work – for example, a business analyst internship that confirms a student’s interest in professional roles in the finance industry. However, they can also help you identify your priorities when searching for full-time professional roles after graduation. Thinking critically about what tasks you enjoy performing the most, and identifying which tasks and responsibilities you least enjoy, and making lists of each can help guide your future job search. Dividing your list into tasks you care about most, tasks you enjoy less, and tasks you enjoy least will help you identify which opportunities will be the best fit for you. The list of factors you care about the most, and absolutely need to be a part of your first professional role after graduation is your list of what I would call “non-negotiables.”
For example, perhaps you wish to stay in Seattle after graduation and do not wish to relocate to a different city for a job at this time in your life. In this case, the location of the job being Seattle would be one of your non-negotiables. Another example of a non-negotiable in a job search could be the size of the company: perhaps you are only interested in working for a small start-up, or perhaps you are willing to compromise on the size of the company, but not willing to compromise on working for an organization whose mission statement aligns with your personal values. Perhaps you are interested only in professional roles that allow you to collaborate with others and work directly with people. In any case, putting together a list of non-negotiables while serving as an intern will benefit you as you begin your job search.
While many people think of networking as an activity that takes place among people from different organizations, internships also afford you the chance to participate in in-house networking by building relationships with your temporary coworkers.
While pursuing an internship, consider taking a different colleague to coffee every week, and asking him or her about their journey to their current full-time professional role – what other roles did they have prior to this one? What skills did they need to succeed in previous roles? You can gather a lot of valuable information that can help guide your career plans, by learning about another professional’s story, and asking that individual what their own non-negotiables were when job-searching. You can also ask that individual if they can introduce you to another professional in the same industry, whose goals might align with your own. Your professional network will grow throughout your career but connecting with the individuals you work with during an internship is a great way to start building up your network.