The MPW Insiders Network is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: "What should every college intern know about succeeding in business” is written by Jenni Luke, CEO of Step Up.
An internship is the perfect opportunity to begin preparing for a successful career. Enthusiasm and confidence are only a fraction of the formula for success. You need to take action, do good work, and make sure what you gain from your internship outlives the experience itself. Below are tips that will serve you well in your internship and your continuing professional life.
Find a mentor
A mentor is someone you can connect with on things regarding your internship, college life, career aspirations, and more. This may be the person who manages you at your internship or others who you meet throughout your experience. They can help you understand the culture of the company you’re working for and coach you on how to make sure your impact is felt and noticed. A mentor may not have all the answers but their guidance combined with your good work will help propel you to success.
Successful business leaders are goal-oriented. They have a vision and everything they do in their role contributes to an end-goal. During your internship, set weekly goals for yourself in addition to those your manager gives you. For example, learn the company’s software; introduce yourself to someone new; ask someone in a department you’re interested in learning more about to have coffee and bring your prepared list of questions, etc. At the end of the week, take a hindsight view of your goals. How many did you reach? Share moments of success with your mentor and manager, or if you’re concerned why you didn’t reach a certain goal, seek guidance with that person.
Your college internship will eventually end but that doesn’t mean you should stop contacting your mentor or your old colleagues. If you make a great impression by doing good work during your internship, it’s likely to lead to terrific opportunities down the road, but only if you stay in touch. After your internship, find meaningful ways to connect with ex-colleagues, such as sending links to relevant industry articles or sending an email when you’re able to make use of something you learned from your internship. Utilizing LinkedIn or other platforms to stay connected is just one step. You need to build the relationship in proactive ways so that when there is an opportunity, they think to reach out to you.
An internship is an important way to learn about what you want from your future career and work opportunities. What is the office environment like? Do you like an open space with lots of opportunity to overhear conversations and contribute to brainstorms? Or do you prefer to sit in a quiet space where you can focus on your task at hand? How do you prefer to be managed? Are you someone who needs a lot of context and instruction before diving in? Or do you like to have broad strokes and then figure it out as you go?
The opportunity to check out different types of office environments, management styles, and many other facets of work is one of the biggest benefits of an internship. Even if you end up at a company that you don’t enjoy working for you’ve learned something valuable for your future.
These tips in combination with enthusiasm and confidence will put you on a path for success in your college internship and for success in business.