4 Ways to Succeed at Your First Internship

1. Ask questions, but only after trying as hard as possible to find the answer yourself.

As an intern, you are by no means expected to know everything. The purpose of an internship is to gain practical experience in a particular profession the individual may be interested in pursuing. An internship should (hopefully) be a positive learning experience; therefore, the employers should expect questions from you as an intern. Don't be afraid or intimidated to ask! It's always better to ask and admit you don't know how to do something than feign understanding and do it wrong. However, make sure you can provide evidence you've tried to find the answer yourself and aren't wasting their time.

2. Be open to criticism.

Don't take things personally! I know it's easier said than done, but having thick skin is an essential part of being successful. Not everything you do will be perfect— especially for your very first internship! When it comes to the professional world, criticism is awesome (especially from people who have been in the industry for a while). Think about it like this: every time you receive a justifiable criticism, that is one less thing you will do wrong in the future. Criticism is part of life, and it helps us grow as individuals.

3. Go above and beyond.

Impress your employer as much as possible. When a company or organization hires interns (especially first-time interns), they are taking a calculated risk on an individual who may not have much experience. And some interns fall into the mindset that because they're “just an intern”, they don't have to take on a great deal of responsibility (aka they just get to be lazy). DON'T BE THAT PERSON! Complete your assigned work to the highest degree possible, and volunteer to take on extra tasks (if you're capable). It may not seem like it, but employers will take notice of your extra effort.

4. Network, network, network.

A 2016 article published on LinkedIn reveals that 85% of all jobs are filled via networking.  So, wherever you intern, establish positive relationships with as many people there as possible—and once you build that relationship, connect with them on LinkedIn. Throughout your internship, show the people around you that you're not only a competent, hardworking employee, but also the type of person they want to be around in the workplace. Be appreciative of the opportunity to work and learn alongside them. And ask them questions about their professional journey! What did they study in college? How did they get to be where they are today— what were some of their past jobs? What is the most important piece of professional advice they could give to a college student? It's a win-win situation: people love talking about themselves, and you get to learn. If they mention an experience or job that sounds particularly interesting, ask them if that particular place hires interns or has any volunteer opportunities. In this day and age, you never know who will be able to secure your dream internship (or job!).