During high school and college, internships are not only a great item to have on your resume, but they are also the best way to learn about and hone your skills in the workplace. Recognizing your strengths and weaknesses in a work environment can be an important factor in deciding what major to choose in college, as well as the career path you'd eventually like to follow.
However, internships are generally not just something you sign up for. Securing an internship requires a good amount of research and preparation. Most high school guidance counselors and college career centers have an updated list of local organizations and companies looking for interns. While browsing your options, instead of worrying about the name-recognition of the internship, try to think about what would be most fun for you. In today's economy, most internships offer little to no payment, so choose something that will be a valuable and enjoyable use of your time.
Because the internship application process is meant to emulate that of the workplace, you'll discover that applying requires you to quickly perform a series of tasks that may be new to you: creating a resume and cover letter, showing up for the interview, and sending back thank you letter after the interview. These steps are extremely important to prepare for, and there are thousands of resources both online and in your library which offer tips to help perfect these skills.
When you acquire your internship, the preparation only continues. Firstly, unless otherwise specified, remember to arrive on the first day in work attire that is more formal than you might think is necessary; it is better to be overdressed than under dressed. You will most likely be bombarded with new names and information; do your best to retain as much of this as possible by asking clarifying questions and taking notes. It is better to ask for help than to pretend like you know exactly what to do -- tricky situations will always arise and it is best to be prepared in advance.
If and when you find yourself in a problematic position -- like photocopying the wrong documents, speaking with an angry caller on the phone, or not completing a task on time -- it is best to take a step back and remind yourself: You are only an intern. You're still learning the ropes. All interns make mistakes and eventually learn from them -- this is the point of having an internship in the first place! Rely on constant and honest communication with your supervisor. Don't be afraid to tell him or her if you feel overworked or confused; it is in everyone's best interest to ensure that, as an intern, you feel comfortable and competent in your work.
Lily Faden is a Blog Contributor at Examville. Examville is a global online education platform where users can connect and interact with others from around the world. Our innovative platform creates an open, virtual meeting place that allows for learning without borders. Examville facilitates online user-to-user collaborative learning at an affordable cost.
© 2010 Lily Faden
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