It is no doubt you have heard from the many career success stories that in a sea of “No’s", all it takes is one “Yes”. All it takes is one company to take a chance on you, and it is important to make the most of that opportunity. In most cases, having an internship is typically a requirement for entry-level jobs out of college. This idea may seem daunting for underclassmen as they balance part-time jobs, schoolwork, and extracurriculars alone. In the grand scheme of things, an internship should be seen as a stepping stone for your career but can be utilized to be so much more than that. These are a few of the ways to maximize your internship experience I found to be the most important throughout my time at The Koch Co.:
Set goals for yourself. Your manager may provide you with a list of projects and goals to accomplish by the end of your internship, but it’s important to set a few unique ones for yourself. These goals may be to learn a new skill, increase your connections on LinkedIn through the organization, or to simply to be able to end everyday knowing you provided value to one of your colleagues. Be sure that these goals are specific and measurable so that you can reflect on them at the end. For example, one of my goals was to become proficient in Adobe InDesign. While sitting in a classroom and learning each tool is efficient, taking on a project that required a layout was the best way for me to learn the techniques needed to create the brochures and HR documents I was assigned to update.
Accept criticism with open arms. You are ultimately there to learn and grow as a professional. With that said, a key part to the learning curve is making mistakes and reflecting on them. It may be difficult to ask for negative feedback but you cannot learn from your weaknesses if you’re looking at yourself and your work with rose-colored glasses. If there is a time to push yourself and risk failure, it is during an internship. Does your work align with the goals of the organization? What can you do better to improve your work as a whole? Big or small, the projects you work on throughout the internship can be used as work samples or in a portfolio depending on the industry. It’s important to encourage constructive criticism and thank your colleagues for their input.
Make long-lasting connections. While the skills you develop and build on are essential for your resume, getting a job is greatly based on who you know. Whether your colleagues will become friends, professional connections or mentors, forming these relationships will help you excel in your current role and possibly open doors for future opportunities. In my experience, receiving career advice from seasoned professionals is one of the most mind-calming and insightful things you can do. As a college student it can be hard to remind yourself that your full-time coworkers have been in your shoes before. Talking with as many people across the organization as possible will not only broaden your knowledge of the company and industry, but it will open your eyes to the variety of possibilities ahead of you in your career path.
At the end of the day, I had the honor of working with a company that was willing to take a chance on a developing professional and followed through with providing a positive, educational environment. For that I can thank The Harry A. Koch Co. for encouraging me to get out of my comfort zone and challenging me to learn and grow as a professional and an individual.
“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson