3 ways to make the most of internships

Student developer Shaun Henderson reveals how to get the most from your internship.

When looking for an internship, best practice suggests that you should apply for as many vacancies as possible. Being the kind of person I am, I decided to go against such advice and only applied for one. Why? I found a firm [marketing communications agency Fifth Ring] that suited me. But how do you set about finding an internship that suits you?

Fair dealing

Careers fairs are a brilliant opportunity to meet potential employers. They let you find out more about each company in a relaxed and informal environment. Alternatively, you could try Twitter or LinkedIn.

Once you find a company you like, try to get the contact details of someone from within the digital team. You might be able to send them your internship application to pass on to the right people. Sometimes the fact that it comes from a colleague gives you a foot in the door.

Remember that both parties should receive something from an internship. Ask what you will be doing during your time there and consider whether it's worthwhile. The work should sound like it will benefit you as well as the company. Don’t settle for photocopying.

An internship is a fantastic way of spending your summer and the experience you can gain is priceless – but only if it is financially viable. Be sure to ask about the length of the internship, the pay you will receive and the hours you will be working. If the numbers just don't add up, even when you take other sources of income into consideration, then there is no reason not to politely turn down the offer.

Work up in steps

Once you begin the internship, keep asking yourself if you are making the most of the experience. It's okay to help out on small things as you find your feet, but eventually you should be looking to take on a project of your own. This is not just the best way to learn the basics: it will also inspire you to push yourself further. You'll soon find yourself doing things that you couldn't have dreamed of doing a few weeks earlier.

Each project that you work on shows the team how you handle exposure to new environments. But don't limit yourself to doing only what's asked of you. Share any ideas you have that could either be good technical exercises or be of benefit to the company. It's the best way to gain experience and prove that you love the work.

An internship is a fantastic way of spending your summer and the experience you can gain is priceless

We all know that it's relatively easy to forget something you have just learnt, so try to use each project as an educational stepping stone. Look to start a blog with regular updates detailing what you have learnt. This, along with taking what you have learnt from previous projects and expanding on it by adding a new framework or technology, helps to reinforce those lessons in your head.

It's important not to forget that completing an internship can benefit you in your studies as well as giving you practical experience. Whatever you have achieved during your internship, try to find a way to incorporate it into your end-of-year project. Doing so will allow you to get the most out of your final year of study.

Network hard

During your time as an intern, you will have built relationships with people within the company. This will put you into a very fortunate position of being able to ask professionals for advice. It's also the ideal time to set up a LinkedIn page. Adding other employees within the company will open you up to a vast network of other professionals. Being connected to just one influential member can link you with every digital team across the city.

Remember that while your internship will eventually come to an end, that doesn't mean your time within the company has to. Ask about working part-time while you complete your degree. You might find that as your internship ends, your career begins.

This article was originally published in issue 264 of net magazine

Words: Shaun Henderson

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