Friday, August 16, 2013

Guest Blog: "5 Ways to Find Value in Your Internship"

5 Ways to Find Value in Your Internship

So you’ve landed an internship. You’re interning either to gain a bit of experience in your field, because you need academic credit, or because you’d like to earn a little bit of extra cash. Whatever the reason, the internship experience provides an essential hands-on learning opportunity that facilitates a smooth transition from the academic institution to the working world. That’s why it’s up to you to actively seek value in your internship. Complement your education with professional experience to enhance your knowledge in the field you wish to work in. You will get back everything that you put in.

Network. Expanding your professional network early on is essential. Treat the workplace as an extended networking event by constantly collaborating and communicating with colleagues. Making connections and building professional relationships with coworkers is valuable for future professional endeavors. Always make sure to keep in touch with coworkers and colleagues – you never know when you might need them next. And make sure to keep in touch on LinkedIn. It’s a social network that will keep you connected with colleagues past and present.

Correspond. Communicating with professionals in the workplace may seem new and strange. Don’t worry, that’s why you’re starting early on. By simply inhabiting the workplace, you will gain valuable knowledge about professional interpersonal interactions. These skills are necessary wherever you end up working. Make sure to always be polite, friendly, and professional when interacting with coworkers. Actively seek projects that involve multiple departments. Working with others individually and in teams will provide helpful social experience.

Find a Mentor. Being a student in a professional setting, you’ll most likely be the youngest and least-experienced person in the workspace. Take this opportunity to find someone who is willing to address questions and offer professional advice. There’s no better way to learn about your field than from someone who works there everyday. You will find that most people are willing and eager to help your learning.

Apply your Knowledge. This is where you get to integrate your knowledge. Find ways to use what you’ve learned in the classroom to apply in the workspace. The best learning comes from a hands-on experience complemented with background knowledge. Don’t be afraid to share your knowledge and ask questions – this may be an opportunity to gain insight on a theory in practice or even influence a project. Your coworkers won’t know what you’re capable of, unless you show them.

Step Up. Take this opportunity to develop your leadership. Prove to your coworkers that you can step up when it’s necessary. Challenge yourself by doing something out of your comfort zone. This is a time to learn, which means it’s inevitably a time to make mistakes; your employer knows that. Be confident in your abilities and persistent in your efforts. The ability to step up as a leader within a team is something valued greatly in the professional world.

Regardless of what type of experience you’re getting, it’s important to use these years to build your skill set and gain knowledge of the field you plan to work in. Don’t worry if you are having trouble landing the perfect internship; many skills are transferable and can be applied in a variety of different fields. By acquiring these skills early on, you’ll get a jump-start to an entry-level position, not to mention make yourself more marketable to graduate programs and future employers. Remember, it’s up to you to take advantage of the opportunities that are available. Make the choice to invest time and energy into finding value in your internships. Let it be the stepping-stone that brings you closer to your professional endeavors and aspirations.

Kevin Hollander is the BSOS Communications Intern and a rising senior at the University of Maryland – College Park. Earning a double degree in Marketing and Psychology, Kevin prides himself on being a Design and Innovations in Marketing Fellow. He is spending his undergraduate career developing his leadership skills as a second-year member of the Peer Leadership Council and is passionate about community service and social justice. Contact him at