Always ask for more
If you have downtime at your internship, ask your supervisor for more work. If they don’t have any projects for you to work on, go to other departments and offer to assist them however you can (even if it means making copies/getting coffee). By helping them, you’re also helping yourself get a feel for other areas/aspects of the work you’re doing. You’ll also get great exposure and be able to establish connections across the company.
Build (and maintain) relationships
You never know who is going to give you your big break; what starts as an unpaid internship could lead to freelance work or a full-time job. In addition to applying yourself at your internship and always doing your best quality work, take the time to build a relationship with your internship supervisor. Equally important, after your internship ends, maintain the rapport you’ve established by remembering to periodically check in with your former supervisor and update them on what you’re doing. This will ensure that they keep you in mind for future openings at the organization.
Get to know your fellow interns
We often think of networking as vertical, reaching out to people we think can help us; horizontal networking can be just as valuable. You may feel like you are ‘competing’ with your fellow interns, but their success is absolutely independent of yours. Not only will you have more in common with other interns, you never know how you can help each other down the line. Take the initiative to organize an intern outing after hours. You can ask them about their past internship experiences or keep the conversation strictly social. Either way, you’re gaining a contact interested in your same industry and someone who can attest to your work ethic.
Find alumni at your internship site
Leverage platforms like LinkedIn to find any alumni from your university working at your internship site. You can also reach out to your career center or alumni office to see if they would be willing to write an introduction for you. Once you get connected to the alum, invite them to have lunch or see if they would be willing to have an informational interview with you. During your meeting, you’ll be able to find out what classes they took and organizations they were a part of, so that you can follow in their footsteps.
Be open to changing your mind
One of the most bittersweet outcomes of an internship is to discover that the career or industry isn’t for you. If, at the end of your internship, you decide you want to pursue an entirely different career path, that doesn’t mean you’ve wasted your entire summer or semester. You will still walk away with transferable skills, work experience and potential references. You’ve also prevented yourself from having to make a major career change down the line.
About the author: Jamie Jordan is the Assistant Director of Career Services at Sarah Lawrence College. Before graduating and joining the team full-time, Jamie was a student worker in Sarah Lawrence’s Office of Career Services.
Check out more tips from career center professionals in our ongoing series, Career Center Confidential.