How To Make The Best Out Of Your Summer Internship
After finishing one year at the b-school, this is the first time you step out in the real world, armed with your recently acquired knowledge. The internship placements were a dry run of the placement season to arrive a year later, and the internship will give you an idea about your life after b-school.
If you joined b-school as a fresher, then you’re in a for the surprise of your life. The journey from a college desk to the office desk is one of the longest, and there lie many life lessons in the journey.
There are many reasons why you should make the best out of it, and not enough ways on how to do that.
It is likely that you know quite a bit about the company you are going to intern at already since you prepared for the interview. In the weeks leading before the internship, try to find out everything about the company using Google, LinkedIn, Bing, Glassdoor, et tout. Dust the stalking skills from the time you had that huge crush, and whet them.
When and how did the company begin? Who founded it? What are its major achievements (and weak periods)? Has it been in the news in the last 6 months for anything? Don’t leave anything out. You want to come across as someone who has done their homework. If the company runs a blog on its website, skim through that too. It will give you a better idea of the kind of work culture and environment to expect at the internship.
If you know the manager with whom you’ll be working, find out everything about him. You will have an edge when you meet him.
Side tip: Pre-preparation also includes gearing yourself if you’re going to intern in a different city. Carry appropriate and adequate baggage; be over-equipped.
When the internship begins:
B-schools are (in)famous for their insistence on punctuality, and you’re in luck if this habit has become ingrained in you during the last one year. If anything, you should go ahead a step and become better than punctual during the summer internship.
Reaching early to the office, not just on time, will considerably improve your experience. You most certainly won’t be asked to turn up earlier than asked, but doing that will a) give you some time to settle down before the hustle begins, and b) leave a good impression.
Also, there is a good chance that you might get a chance to strike up a conversation with someone who arrives as early, and there won’t be many people. You never know what you might get out of an early morning, one-on-one conversation!
Brush the chip off your shoulder and make sure there is no glue on it, because you’re only an intern. While it is more likely that you will be given proper projects to work on, it is possible that you are asked to do something menial like getting a photocopy or filing.
It is better to shrug off your sense of entitlement just because you are from a top-notch b-school. People you are working with are smarter and more experienced than you, and if you are asked to do something you don’t like, it is advisable to do it, and do it really well.
Show your manager that you are a perfectionist, no matter what the task is. If you do a shoddy job at a menial task, he is not likely to trust you with something important.
There will be times when you will feel that you are above the work that is given to you, but brush off that feeling and do it well. You will come across as somebody who has a good work ethic as well as a good head on your shoulders.
Your equation with your manager.
It is important to put some effort into building your equation with your manager. Try to understand his expectations from you and his working habits and preferences; the best way to do the former is to “communicate” with him, and you should have good observational skills for the latter.
If possible, obtain weekly feedback from him rather than waiting until the end of the internship. And act upon the feedback. You don’t want to find out too late that you could have done something ‘differently’ or ‘skipped’ something.
Follow the basic goal-setting strategy here, and it will be worth the effort. Break down your project or tasks into actionable to-do lists, and set daily, weekly and monthly targets for yourself. This sounds like an extremely dry and monotonous task, but it will help you keep the productivity in check.
(Tip: If you are an introvert or workaholic, set social goals too. For example, one outing with colleagues per week, etc.)
The golden docs
This one is really special. Create 2 google docs: a journal and an FAQ.
In the journal, keep a track of things you did well, things you screwed up, things you learned, and all feedback and coaching you received from your supervisors. You can refer to this document in future for planning better. Don’t consider it less important than your b-school notes in any manner. In fact, if you maintain it properly, it will help you more than any textbook ever will. (Besides, it will be insanely useful when you are required to make a report about your internship.)
In the FAQ, keep a running list of questions you have. As you figure out the answers, add those into the list as well.
It is highly probable that even after the internship ends, in the years to come, you will cross paths with the people with whom you worked at the internship. Make sure that you cultivate cordial relations with them. Talk to people, find out more about them by asking interesting questions and arrange to meet with them outside work once in a while.
Most seniors will be happy to talk to you and give you advice, as long as their schedules permits. Don’t miss out on anything just because you thought you shouldn’t ask.
Respect the work.
Don’t take any moment for granted, and don’t think that your work won’t be evaluated or looked at after you leave. If your work is just average, it will probably go unnoticed. But if you do a really good job, it may fetch you a PPO or simply give you goodwill and recommendations.
Even though you might want a break after the long First Year of b-school, this summer internship is not the time you get lay back and chill. Treat it like an opportunity to learn and grow.