While I was in college, I had 3 separate internships. In each setting, I had many, many learning opportunities. I had an internship with a financial services company, another internship at a marketing and graphic design firm and most recently, I spent 2.5 years interning at a church. I compiled a list of some of the most valuable lessons I learned and in some cases, these made things a lot easier and the quality of my life a lot better during the days of interning.
1. First in, last out. #FILO
I don’t have a background coming from the military service, but I have many friends who do. There’s an acronym that portrays a soldier’s life. It is first in, last out. They arrive upon a scene early and stay until everyone has left.
Maybe yours or other’s association of an intern is someone who gets coffee, does grunt work and paperwork and plays on Facebook most of the day. If you want it to be different, guess what, you can make a lasting different impression! This will help when you arrive each day, event, etc. EARLY and stay LATE to help with extra work or clean up. Nothing shows initiative quite like this does.
John Maxwell, an author, leadership expert and sought after conference speaker says it best: “What are you preparing for today? Success or failure? Does your daily agenda indicate that you make a habit of paying before you play?” I believe that arriving early and staying late is one of the ways you can show that you are serious about succeeding in your internship.
2. Start a blog.
Begin to create a personal move of influence online and a social media footprint. (Personal Brand) You have to be very intentional and wise with every blog post, tweet and Facebook post, it’s called using a filter.
This is not a platform to rant, rather it’s to maximize influence and leverage it for a common goal and purpose. What image are you reflecting and representing?
Fast Company is a leading blog and they explain perfectly why it’s important for young individuals to have a strong personal brand: “At this point, it’s established that personal branding is important for a number of reasons. It provides a clear focus for personal development while establishing yourself as a thought leader. It also works wonders for career success, allowing individuals to pursue whatever it is that they’re passionate about.”
3. Build a network before you need one.
I’ll never forget a guest speaker who came to my university to teach and share. His name was Justin Lathrop. Justin is the author of “Likeable Christian” and is a worldwide connector. He shared some of the best advice I’ve ever received. He said to build a network before you need one.
For me, this was making personal contact with several great leaders while I was in college and at my internships. If you’re currently interning, someday you’ll need a network. Why not start building it today? You can connect with people on social media, especially LinkedIn. You can begin to email and ask questions to leaders. Lastly, nothing beats going to conferences or sharing cups of coffee to build relationships.
4. Serve others, especially your leaders.
I’ve heard it said like this: if you take care of the right people, they will take care of you. “You will get all you want in life, if you help enough other people get what they want.” – Zig Ziglar. If you’re working to build a network, look no further than your supervisors and co-workers at your internship if you want to help make a difference at your current internship.
You never know, you might be writing your job description with every task you do and everything you do to add value. If a job doesn’t open up, chances are the managers and leaders can open other doors for you in the industry.
5. Attitude is everything.
You will have bad days, terrible days, discouraging days, poor days… and awesome days. Keep shining! You can make it through and beyond with a great attitude. (There will be awesome days as well)
Lamentations 3:23 could also help keep tough days in perspective: “God’s mercies are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” This is one of those verses that can help you remember that at your internship, one of the main things you can control is your attitude!
6. Be a learner!
You can always be listening to podcasts, interviewing experts whom you’ll interact with, and read books. These things will keep you learning new things each day! If you’re looking for some great resources: check out QARA’s recommended reading: http://qara.org/recommended-reading/ and Paul Sohn’s recommended learning and growth resources: http://paulsohn.org/resources/
7. Set goals.
One of the best things I ever did as an intern was write out a page of goals as to what I’d like to learn, do, work towards and accomplish while I was there.
I handed it to each of my supervisors, and they helped me reach every last one of those goals.
Recently, Harvard Business did a study to show stats and findings relating to goal setting and success. The study found that 14% of Harvard Grads actually set goals. The 14% who have goals are 10 times more successful than the 86% of those without goals. The 3% with written goals are 3 times more successful than the 14% with unwritten goals.
8. Ask questions.
Wherever you go, you’ll interact with bright minds, brilliant people, and great leaders. You can tell them about yourself (which is not a bad thing), or you can maximize the opportunity of their time and pick their brain by asking the right questions. I recently had the opportunity of meeting author Ken Coleman. He gave me a copy of his book: One Question. He interviewed Duke University legend basketball coach, Coach K, as well as Oprah, Andy Stanley and over 40 others.
My biggest takeaway from talking with Ken and reading his book was to become a life-long learner and ask others great questions. If you do this in your internship, you surely will set yourself up for success.
9. Thank you.
People are there to help. Get into the practice of writing handwritten thank you cards at least once a week. Send a few encouraging electronic notes as well. My friend Bill is an entrepreneur in Minneapolis. The Minnesota Business Magazine recently interviewed Bill. He was asked what he attributed his success in business to. He said the number one thing was writing hand written thank you cards personally to each of his clients. You can read the article here: http://www.minnesotabusiness.com/does-handwritten-thank-you-note-make-difference-business
10. Go above and beyond, every time.
100% of the time, it works every time.Some would say: under promise and over deliver. Others may say go the extra mile. The point is clear that you will give the most and get the most out of every internship you went above and beyond in.
What are some additional ways you can go above and beyond the call of duty?