I remember during my final year at university, whilst pondering what on earth I was going to do next; the idea of applying for an internship always seemed to come with a negative connotation. Would going straight into a grad job be a better option? Would taking an internship just mean that I end up working really hard for a short period with little to show for it at the end? These were the sort of questions I was asking myself before I accepted an offer of a position.
However, in an increasingly competitive jobs market the idea of internships and short-term contract work is gradually becoming the preferred option to undergraduates taking their first steps into the big wide world. In July I started my two-month internship with Lanyon Bowdler, and now eight months on I am still here, so I like to think I’m doing a decent job. So here, in all its glory, is my advice about how best to promote yourself during an internship, making you useful to a business.
The best way to think of an internship is that it is getting one foot in the door of a business, and having the chance to prove yourself as the sort of employee they would want to take on full-time. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Steven Spielberg (albeit a long time ago in their cases) are some of the most famous examples of people using internships to begin their careers, and success stories similar to theirs are only likely to increase in the future, given the growing amount of internships being offered by businesses.
So how should you make sure that you give the best impression of yourself whilst you are at a firm?
Attitude is key
I’m not going to sugar-coat it for you, as an intern you are never going to be given the most enjoyable or most glamorous work, as this is saved for those above you who are being paid the big bucks. This is the same as being in your first few years at a grad job, so there are no worries there. You will likely be given tasks which are simple and repetitive, and as you grow into your role these will increase in difficulty. The best attitude to take towards such tasks is to be as hard-working and professional as possible. Even a simple job, if done efficiently and professionally, can impress an employer. Attitude, consistency and work-rate are some of the key characteristics employers are looking for.
Say yes to any task, no matter what
This point is linked to the first; however it is just as important. No matter what you are asked to do, within reasonable grounds, say yes. Obviously if your employer asks you to help him hide a dead body then you should probably decline and contact the proper authorities, however any reasonable office-based task should be done with a smile on your face. Just an hour before I started writing this post my boss asked if I would help him move seventy pots of charity jam from his car into the office. I agreed without a second thought. I didn’t bother asking why do you have so much jam? or could I help you when I have got a moment?, I just did it. I am pretty sure if I look through my contract nowhere in my job description does it have the words ‘jam-transporter’ in it, however I was very happy to do so and he was appreciative of the help. Again attitude is key, and showing that you are willing to help your colleagues in any way possible goes a long way.
Make friends with your co-workers
For the record, no one can walk into the office on Day One and become friends with everyone. This one can take time, however an internship becomes much more enjoyable when you get along with the people you work with. The little things go a long way in making people like you, and it also makes you a more memorable and an integrated member of a business. Use your social skills; say hello to people in the mornings, if you bump into someone in the corridor then ask them how their weekend was, or if someone is having a bad day at the office just make a bit of idle chit-chat with them to cheer them up.
In the Ludlow office I was even given the unofficial title of Head of Office Team Morale, which unfortunately doesn’t come with a wage increase, but does show the benefits of being positive within the workplace. I am lucky enough to work for Lanyon Bowdler which has some fantastic people working there, who I genuinely consider as good friends, and I regularly socialise with my colleagues both inside and outside of work. This shows the importance of building good office relationships and how it can benefit your life outside of the workplace too.
Additional Tip: Make friends with all the secretaries
They are some of the friendliest and chattiest people in the workplace, and have an extremely high ratio of being excellent bakers too. Some days at work I feel like I am in an episode of the Great British Bake Off there is so much cake in the kitchen!
So to summarise, my advice at the end of the day is relatively straight-forward. Just work hard, make a good impression and be nice to people. It’s hardly rocket science is it? Even if you do not get a job at the place you are interning at directly, a good reference from your employer could make all the difference going forward.