How to make the most of an internship

How to make the most of an internship


You’re coming up to THAT stage in your studies. You’re into a routine with course work, you have your assessment schedule laid out and you’re settling into your degree.

But then you find yourself wondering how you can put all this theory into practice, what it will be like to work in the industry and if you’ll have enough experience when you’re looking for jobs. Cue – internship.

Internships are much more than doing the cliché coffee run (although navigating 12 takeaway coffee cups through a seven-story building can be a fun challenge). They’re an invaluable industry experience – an opportunity to learn just what life will be like in your chosen profession, work with experienced professionals and consolidate your learning. They’re also the best way to help you decide if you’re on the right career path. Here are some top tips on how to intern.

  • Start early – Don’t wait until the second semester of your final year to undertake an internship (even if that’s when your internship subject is scheduled). The sooner you start putting the feelers out for internship opportunities, the more experience you’ll have and the more contacts you’ll build. You’ll be able to put theory into practice early on and you’re likely to learn new skills that will help you with the rest of your studies.
  • Say yes even if you’re thinking no – Internships can be nerve-wracking, especially if you’re given tasks that you’re not confident with. And while most intern hosts understand that you’re a student and still learning, that doesn’t mean they won’t push you outside your comfort zone. But that’s all part of the learning experience! Say yes to all opportunities, tasks and jobs handed your way; this is the best way to learn and make the most of your own internship.
  • Be open to praise and criticism – There’s nothing more liberating than hearing “great job!” from a prospective employer. But as a young practitioner, mistakes are also part of the learning experience. Be open to both praise and criticism and take it as advice, it’s unlikely you’re going to nail every task on your first day, and that’s okay.
  • Make your own opportunities – Not every host organisation is going to have an internship coordinator or internship program ready for you on arrival. Many organisations are going to be busy with day-to-day duties and sometimes you might feel like you aren’t doing much to help. This is the time to take it into your own hands and make your own opportunities. Ask questions, ask for alternative jobs or ask if anyone needs help. Sit with your colleagues and show interest in their career paths, or take the time to meet other people in your host organisation. Write a list of internship goals and make your own opportunities so you can make the most out of your internship.
  • Realise that everything you learn is invaluable for your future – Internships are one of the best ways to get a first-hand impression about a career in your chosen profession. Everything you learn, everyone you meet and every experience you have while interning are invaluable for you future.
  • Treat your internship as your first industry job – Sure, you might not be getting paid, but these organisations are prospective employers! Treat your placement as a job – work hard to impress, work hard to improve and work hard to develop insights into your profession. You never know, you might just get offered a job at the end!
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