The name Chris Gardner is familiar to people because of the movie “The Pursuit of Happyness” (yes, that's how it's spelled). Gardner drudged through an unpaid internship at Dean Witter Reynolds while he and his son survived homelessness in San Francisco. The internship resulted in a full-time job and a new life for his family. The movie is based on a true story that is actually quite common (minus the drama for cinematic effect).
Dennis Muilenburg interned at Boeing in 1985. Today he is the CEO of the company. Ursula Burns was a mechanical engineering intern at Xerox in 1980. She is the company's CEO today. Granted they worked for decades before reaching the pinnacle. But the internships were the opportunities that led to future success.
Data compiled by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) found that 60% of paid internships lead to job offers. Unpaid internships turned into jobs only 36% of the time. Stanford and Cal-Berkeley students have myriad opportunities in what many consider the technology capital of the world. Young Millennials and Gen Z aren't known for landing jobs and keeping them for 40 years like the aforementioned CEOs. But successful internships expand your network and bolstering your resume.
Here are six tips to maximize your internships.
Every company has it's unique culture and brand. Take the initiative to learn the company's values and live by them. If everyone wears jeans and t-shirts, don't show up in a suit and tie. Participate in potlucks and all other company events. Most importantly, be genuine. Fake people are easy to spot.
Interns mostly take orders and do menial tasks. Stand out by offering suggestions to improve processes. Tell your supervisor about the benefits of standing desks in the workplace. Introduce co-workers to technology that streamlines processes, like the Chromebit and Logitech K480 keyboards. The student becoming the teacher impresses big wigs.
Entering thousands of email addresses into a spreadsheet isn't exhilarating work. But if that's your jobs for the day, do it with a smile and enthusiasm. Supervisors will recognize your commitment and trust you to do more challenging and meaningful work. It's ok to ask for more challenging tasks after a few weeks of doing the same thing. Just be respectful when that time comes.
Some internships require you to do multiple tasks within tight deadlines. Determine the urgency level and time commitment for each task. Use a calendar or some other to-do list and complete your work accordingly. Morning people should do their complex tasks upon arrival. Those who get their second-winds after lunch should use afternoons for their difficult tasks.
Teamwork and collaboration are very important to most companies, particularly in the technology sector. Learn everyone's names and always use them. If you're bad with names, write them down and associate each person with some sort of mneumonic device. Strike up conversations with people from other departments. The more people you know, the better chance the internship becomes full-time.
This is perhaps the most important piece of advice. Send a handwritten thank you note to your supervisor and co-workers when the internship concludes. Make certain to get email addresses from as many of your co-workers as possible. Most jobs come from networking in 2019. The internship may not turn into an immediate job. But it could in the future.-------------------------------
Samantha Johnson is a freelance writer and editor. She lives in Sacramento with her husband, daughter, and two cats. Samantha writes for several retailers and mommy bloggers, and runs an e-commerce store.