Internships are a great way to learn more about any field. They say that you learn more in internships than you will in your four years. After having a few, I agree with that sentiment. I have interned with a couple startups and have had 2 summers of experience as a data and business analyst for Quicken Loans in Detroit. On top of that, I am always asking for advice from my mentors and peers about how to hack your own internship and make the best use of it. What I have learned is NOT limited to just internships, it can be applied to any job or experience that you currently have.
Shadowing is an awesome way to network with people and other positions that you want to learn more about. If you are in a technical role and your team is supporting technology from another area of the company, it may be a good idea to learn more about how the people using that tech are going about interacting with the technology you’re building. Other than that, it offers a great way to learn more about an area that you may be interested in but do not know enough about. A google search is great but real life experience that is open and available is a lot more beneficial. I learned about my passion for data analytics after shadowing a data architect. Shadows can be all day or even 30 minutes. Cold email someone from the company you’re working for and say “Hello _____, my name is _________. I am curious to learn more about your team and what you do. I was wondering if you or someone from your team has 30 minutes for me to come by to shadow. Regards, _____”. It’s super simple! Ask your coworkers if they know anyone in particular that may be interesting to shadow and please please please have someone review and check your email before you send it.
- Get out of your head
To some degree, you will have some imposter syndrome. You are around a lot of very hard working, intelligent people so you may think “why would they choose me?”. First things first, you are intelligent and you are smart. There is a reason you are there otherwise they have a pool of other candidates to choose from. Congrats, you are one of them! Be proud of that. That’s not easy. You are going to be your biggest critic and sometimes you can get in your own way. I’ve not done certain projects because I was afraid of failing and I missed out on opportunities when I realized how easy it was for me to do. My mentor last summer even told me to be more confident because I am fully capable I just had to give myself enough credit. If you look at #6, you will see that I say to ask questions. If you think you’re wrong or you aren’t sure what you’re doing, ask. There should be no shame in asking a question. Take ownership of the things you’ve done right but also take responsibility when you’ve messed up. Everyone makes mistakes, they happen
- Schedule 1:1
I like doing one on one’s every two weeks since internships are typically 10-12 weeks long. This is way for you to get feedback from your mentor or someone who works closely with you. If you want to you can even ask for a 1:1 with someone you worked on a project with. This is a perfect place to ask questions about your career, salary negotiate (if you are full time), learn more about the other person’s experience. I highly recommend this if you are an intern. It shows that you are interested in learning about yourself and how you can improve
- Always be accessible but know your limits
This was the hardest thing for me to get and to this day I still struggle with saying “no” in a job. I make myself accessible to take on work and then get a bit overwhelmed when I have taken on too much. I am always afraid on losing an opportunity to learn so sometimes if a task was brought up to me that needed my help I needed to say “I’m sorry I can’t help you with that right now but I know someone who may be able to”. As an intern, it’s okay because all of this is new for you and somethings take longer than what takes other team members only 10 minutes or a couple hours. You are there to learn and if you are lucky enough to have a supportive team, they will understand and even help you
- Ask questions, all of them
There is a time and place to ask questions. Do not ask a simple question in a room full of 30 people. That is really scary but I always encourage finding 2-3 people (your mentor included) that you can feel comfortable enough asking simple questions. The amount of times I have asked someone how to do an outer apply is probably too much to count but them answering your question reduces the amount of time you spend figuring it out. Obviously, be a problem solver don’t ask for anything but if you have spent more than 30 minutes trying to figure it out, ask. It’s a learning experience for both you and the person you are asking. If you need someone to review an email or a project before you send it out, that is a great opportunity to ask questions. If you are not sure, ASK. You don’t want to send the wrong email or say the wrong thing when you could’ve asked someone.
- (Do your best) to not be on your phone
I’ll be honest sometimes this is a hard one for me because I can’t help myself sometimes. I sound like an addict to my phone but its not that serious. Do your best to do SOMETHING even if you have nothing to do. Research more about a technical skill, shadow, look at the task board to see if you can help anyone with anything, ask someone questions on what they are doing and if you really have nothing else to do ask your mentor or someone else to give you work to do.
- Go to the intern events
I know some intern events can be “lame” but go anyway. You are there for a short amount of time and honestly some of the best people I have met have been through my internships and I still talk to them to this day. You never know where you can meet someone or learn something and this is a great way for you to relax with people who understand some of the intern struggles. If you are a more introverted person, then by all means do whatever you are comfortable with but sometimes going isn’t the worst thing
Let me know if this was helpful at all. Like or share it with someone who needs some extra support as they apply to their next internship!