Survive Your Internship; Supercharge Your Career

Nov 12, 2018

When talking to my cousin the other day, I asked how he’d landed in his full-time job as a software developer in Auckland. “Through my internship,” he said. He’d made a connection with someone from another company on the same office floor and gone from there.

A few days later, I bumped into a friend while out for coffee. It was exactly the same story. From his internship in Auckland, he made a good impression on an employer and was offered a full-time job out of it. Here’s our handy guide to getting the most out of your summer internship, including tips on how to make the best impressions, and get the outcomes you want.

From CBD to rural Canterbury

It doesn't matter where you internship is in NZ. Internships in NZ range from office jobs in downtown Auckland, to governmental summer roles in Wellington, to driving around the backcountry in rural Canterbury. But good preparation is universal. A lot of this is down to communication. You should ask your contact what you’ll need for day one, whether it’s clothes to meet a dress code, stationary, or specialist equipment for technical or practical work. Another essential purchase is a notebook which you can write in as you learn the ropes, a resource you’ll refer back to constantly as you move along.

Understanding company vision and values

I once impressed in a job interview because I memorised the company values beforehand, including what they meant to the company. I came into the interview able to discuss the vision and direction of the organisation, which helped me land the position. Definitely research the company you’re working for thoroughly before you start. Read their company blogs, trawl LinkedIn, read company press-releases. Understanding why a company does what it does is critical to your success at said company.

Keep communication open

Once you’re there, keep the communication lines flowing. It’s important to remember that the benefits of an internship are usually more through the contacts you meet than the work experience. In fact, a lot of interns are stuck with a lot of grunt work - filing, copying, even making coffees for the team. This is something you’ll have to put up with, although it shouldn’t be all you’re doing. Keep talking, and looking for responsibility.

Build Your Network

If you’re a confident person, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t stick your hand out and introduce yourself to everyone you meet. Contacts are your most valuable takeaways. If you’re more of a natural introvert, you can still do this, but in your own way. If it takes you longer to come out of your shell, that’s fine. You could make a point of talking to one new person in the workplace each day, or go along to after-work drinks, which are good opportunities to befriend co-workers.

No stupid questions

“There are no stupid questions” is a mantra that applies especially to internships. You are new in the workplace and the industry, and no one is expecting that you know much about how things work. What you do when working at a company has real world effects on their clients and financials, so don’t guess. It’s difficult, because everyone is busy, and you might feel like you’re intruding on their time. But it takes a lot less time for someone to answer a question or two than it does for them to fix a mistake.

Using your initiative

Your initiative is your best friend, so long as it’s guided by communication with your bosses. If you finish all of your tasks early, ask someone if you can help them with something a little more meaningful, or even just watch and get them to show you what they’re doing. Sometimes, you might find that people just want to chat to you about what they know from their experience in the industry. Being an attentive listener shows to them that you’re interested in learning more, which will endear you to them in a meaningful way.

Finally, congrats!

Congratulations on your new internship, and good luck. The butterflies will not last long, I promise, since you will be too busy to worry about that sort of thing. In some ways, an internship is like a really, really long job interview. There are constant opportunities to make connections and learn skills, and to make impressions on people who can give you your first real start in your industry. Here’s hoping you’ll end up like my cousin and my friend, and turn your internship into a blossoming career.

By Jack Buckley, Wellington, New Zealand

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