As a homegrown startup with a young and entrepreneurial team, we have attracted quite a number of talented interns from diversified backgrounds – they studied different subjects (from Physics to Pyschology) and came from various universities or colleges (from Oxford University to Raffles College).
From these rewarding experiences, here are eight tips for those who are applying for internships or currently interning, on making the most out of their internship.
1. Add value to the organisation
Most supervisors would be interested to find out how your skillsets could help the organisation. Your skillsets need not necessarily be derived from your formal subject of study, in fact, it could be from your hobby or extracurricular activities.
For example, one of our interns studied IT, but his real passion is videography. He single-handedly directed, shot and edited three corporate videos which were of immense value to us and our customers.
In fact, this particular intern subsequently represented his university to compete in videography competitions in the United States!
If you manage to bring about a positive quantifiable impact to the organisation at the end of your internship, you may even land a job offer (or at least a good testimonial or reference for future job applications).
2.Add value to yourself – absorb like a sponge
Since you will be spending one month or three months of your time for your internship, you might as well make the most out of it (even if it is just ticking the checklist to undertake an internship due to university requirements).
One of the things I usually brief interns at the outset of their internship is to regard their internship as if it was their own business or project because this mindset would really generate maximum learning and inculcate problem-solving skills.
Take this opportunity to enhance what you are good at and more importantly, learn new skills! Apart from learning technical skills do also observe the softer side of things, e.g. how colleagues interact among themselves and with clients, work ethics, work culture etc.
3.Always ask when stuck
It is always a bad idea to over-promise and under-deliver. There is no point in pretending to know if you don’t because sooner or later, your supervisor will find out and it will definitely leave a bad impression, if not irreparable consequences.
In fact, it is assumed that you are here to learn and are curious, so you have the privilege to ask.
Having said that, it is best to ask only if you have tried your best (and couldn’t find the answer after Googling it!), because supervisors value interns/staff who can work independently without being over-reliant.
4.Go the extra mile and offer your help
Supervisors typically value interns who make the extra effort, are go-getters and who place the organisation’s needs above themselves.
For example, staying back later or coming in during weekends just to complete a task before the deadline displays dedication.
Interns should not be over calculative, because you will naturally get noticed and rewarded if your efforts count.
It would also be a good idea to take initiatives and offer your help whenever you can. By offering to help, not only will you become more proactive and motivated but it will really benefit both your supervisor (by easing his/her workload) and yourself (because you get to learn more).
5.Do not set limits on yourself
Interns should have the “can do” attitude, because it makes a huge difference in the end results. Most people tend to stick to what they are comfortable with, i.e. their comfort zone.
But breakthroughs can only be generated if you challenge yourself. Rather than say “I won’t”, “I can’t” or “I don’t know how”, say “I will”, “I can” and “I will make it happen”.
It is not surprising that sometimes interns outperform existing staff as I have experienced this during one of my internships.
This could be because interns have the benefit of being “outside the box” and offer a fresh perspective to those who have been limited by conventional industry practice.
6.Think and not just follow
During peak periods, supervisors may be overwhelmed with work and may not have the luxury of planning ahead comprehensively.
As such, it would actually be helpful to both supervisor and the intern if the intern were to think through the rationale and objectives of a particular task.
It is not surprising that interns may have a better idea on how to achieve the same goal with less time and effort.
Having said that, do not be resistant to your supervisors’ instructions and question every instruction because supervisors do have the benefit of experience.
No one is perfect. Seek regular feedback on your work as well as areas for improvement.
Whilst your supervisor’s comments may not make you feel good, at the very least, you have learnt something valuable during your internship which would help you become a better professional/individual in future.
With continuous learning, a person never stops improving and creates value for himself/herself, people around him/her as well as for the organisation.
Apart from working hard, make as many friends as you can! Participate in team activities and never have lunch alone!
Do not be afraid to walk up, smile and say hi – there is nothing to lose! This is not limited to fellow interns but also your colleagues and superiors!
There is so much to learn from the unique qualities and skillsets of the team and you never know who may be helpful to you in the future.
The world is really much smaller than you think. At the very least, making friends allows you to have a happier internship.
I have no doubt you will have a worthwhile internship if the above are achieved. With that, I conclude by wishing you “Happy Interning!”
Kho Han Jia is co-founder of Worthy Book. He holds a masters degree in Engineering, Economics & Management from Oxford University and was attached with a local investment bank before co-founding his company.