- Before you start your internship - do your homework and prepare as you would for an actual job.
- During your internship - accept guidance, make connections and document your progress.
- After your internship - ask for career advice and performance feedback.
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If you're reading this, it's probably because you're wondering how to best prepare for an internship and make a lasting impression amongst prospective employers.
The good news is if you're wondering about these things, you're starting your internship with a great mindset.
To help get you on the right track, here are the tips and tricks for how to not only survive but stand out in an internship, at every stage of the process.
Before you start
Make a list of questions to ask your host employer before you start. Is there a device policy around mobile phones or laptops? What's the dress code? It's best to sort out things like transport and parking, lunch facilities and hours of work before you arrive on the first day.
Do your homework. You should know a little bit about the company before you start. Larger companies may be covered regularly in the news - try to keep track of the latest reports.
You may be working full-time for at least a few weeks in a professional workplace, so you need to get that wardrobe sorted. Your workplace contact will hopefully let you know the appropriate dress code - when in doubt it is better to dress more formal on your first day. Make sure you've got appropriate shoes, bag, notebook and pen too.
Ensure all the paperwork you may need to submit is complete and accurate. It's not a good look if you're an accounting intern who doesn't know how to fill in a tax declaration form correctly... Also, it's worth spending some time double-checking your information, demonstrating that you're someone who pays attention to detail.
Arrive on time, dressed right and ready to start. Here's where your notebook (or notes app, if your host employer is cool with devices) will come in handy along with a student placement guide should you have one prior to commencing.
You will meet quite a few people on your first day, so try to remember their names and roles, along with the computer logins, phone numbers and any other important details you have to keep track of.
Take the internship seriously. It could really be one long job interview that will end up kick-starting your future!
Displaying initiative is great - but don't make assumptions when you're in unfamiliar territory. The work you do could be real, and mistakes could impact on the business and its clients - so check anything you are unsure about, especially in the early days.
During the internship
This is a great time to hone your time management and organisational skills. Working to your professional best at all times will leave a great impression.
Remember that you are there to accept guidance from experienced people in your workplace. Keep in touch with your assigned supervisor and check-in regularly, letting them know where you are up to in your work to make sure that you are on track.
Keep track of the work that you're doing - again, that notebook will be your best friend. Having a list of the things you've achieved and the experience you've gained will be useful for future job applications, and will also be a good focus when assessing your performance.
Internships are a great way to network - and this is an excellent time to exercise appropriate levels of networking and socialising while making sure it doesn't impact your productivity.
If you're usually shy, you may have to push yourself a little to make those connections. For the more outgoing intern, it's important not to over-share and to remember these are professional, workplace relationships.
When it comes to the end of your internship, try to get some time with your supervisor to go through what you've learned - this is a great time to ask for some career advice and may potentially lead to some ongoing paid work.
Make sure to ask for feedback on your performance. You may not like everything you hear - but it's better to know what you need to work on now, than to develop career-limiting habits in a future workplace. You may also be surprised to hear about strengths and skills you weren't aware of - and can now add to your next job application!
Interested in finding a great internship placement? Find out more about the Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand Achiever Programme.