Internships can pass the time between university semesters, or they can build careers. While some of this is entirely chance, there are ways to maximize your internship experience, regardless of what comes after.
We collected testimony from GLOBIS MBA interns, as well as their supervisors at the companies they interned with. From that testimony, we assembled these four rules for being a good intern:
1. No matter the type, you gotta have goals!
Some companies will have pre-defined goals for you. Others will want you to define your own goals. There’s no consensus on which approach is better, but everyone is in agreement that goals are an important part of the interning process.
Expect a period of discovery during which the team looks for the overlap between their goals and your previous experiences. They’ll also probably ask what you’re hoping to learn during your internship. This is a great opportunity to communicate your short-term and long-term career plans. Your supervisor may be able to adjust your responsibilities to a role that will match the company’s objectives to your personal career aspirations.
The importance of goal setting doesn’t end there, either.
A supervisor at Yokogawa Electric Corporation (Yokogawa) recommends that interns discuss their goals explicitly with their supervisor, then regularly revisit the goal as a way to avoid big mistakes.
They may also ask you to track and report on your progress—possibly even present it to the team.
This process will keep you laser focused on whatever you’ve set your mind to. You may also get a chance to showcase (or hone) your presentation skills and leave a great impression on the company.
2. Be proactive, especially with communication.
Regardless of the reason your company brought you on, they want you to give it your all. Bring all your experience to the table, from education to previous work experience. The internship will be that much more rewarding.
According to a manager at Asahi Mutual Life Insurance Company, “materials created using MBA skills,” and “fresh viewpoints” were two of the most helpful things interns brought to the company.
Showing your skills will help you feel your own value, too. “Getting the chance to apply my complete package was one of the best things I got from my internship,” said Sumit Awasthi.
Lumina Xenia Mesaros agrees. “I thought it would take time, but being on the job taught me I could use my MBA skills right away.”s
Work relationships are the most important area of your internship to take initiative in, especially now that work-from-home is becoming more regular. “Interns needs to make more of an effort to communicate,” says one manager from Yokogawa. “Proactive communication with many coworkers will help teams get to the bottom of both issues and goals.”
Making positive relationships, says the Yokogawa manager, is a key factor to both internship success and career success in general.
3. Prepare to be surprised.
You’re going to be surprised by what you learn, by what you use, by the company culture—so keep expectations and assumptions to a minimum.
“I didn’t expect to learn how to better align myself with my team, says Mesaros. “I thought I was fine, but during my internship I realized I could do better.”
Your internship may also ask you step up in ways you don’t expect.
“Because I was an intern, I thought of myself as a team member instead of a leader. To my surprise, leadership skills were actually very important for my internship. Because our team had a very high level of start-up spirit, every member had to be able to lead,” says Tianshu Rosie Zhang, who interned with Oisix ra Daichi Inc., a Japanese online supermarket with a focus on quality food. She went on to accept a full-time offer from the company.
An internship with an old, refined company doesn’t mean the culture will be stuffy, either. Natcha Kittimongkolchai’s experience with Asahi really surprised her. “Asahi is a big, traditional corporation, but the team I worked for had less than 15 members. The team was quite young and diverse, with members from more than five countries. They made such quick decisions and weren’t afraid to try new methods. It was like working at a start-up. It was so different from what I expected.”
All-in-all, keeping assumptions to a minimum will help you adjust to whatever internship environment you find yourself in.
4. Prepare to think critically.
While employers value almost any skill you bring to the table—especially MBA-related skills—those related to critical thinking are still considered some of the most important. Data analysis, logical thinking, and a basic understanding of marketing principles are strongly valued by employers.
According to research by Deloitte AU, the expansion of ways to analyze business operations is leading to an increase in demand for data science skills, especially in non-IT areas.
This means any of these skills will be a plus. Even if you’re interning in a field you don’t have a long-term interest in, you can make the best of your time by honing these skills. That will increase your value and flexibility as an employee in your future dream job.
“Before my internship, I thought I could only work on an R&D or engineering team. Now I know I can also be useful on a marketing team that promotes, develops, and applies new technologies or solutions,” says Nil Postius of his internship with Yokogawa.
And if you don’t have a strong background in critical thinking, don’t fret. There are lots of resources out there to help you brush up your skills before your internship begins.
While there are some key skills that companies definitely value more than others, attitude can really influence what you get out of your internship. Your experience might not be what you expect—it might exceed those expectations in exciting ways.
No matter what, learning to work constructively in a new or challenging environment is great practice.
Are you supervising interns? Keep your eye out for next month’s article about increasing intern performance!