How can job seekers get the most from internships?

Internships are an excellent way to learn essential skills and to set you up for success with a future employer. Across the country, opportunities are growing for those who are looking to give themselves the best possible start in their career by learning on the job and engaging with skilled professionals. Both are key to developing key competencies and business acumen.


According to the 2017 Internship & Co-op Study from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), 41 percent of U.S. businesses aim to increase their number of intern and co-op positions this year. The strongest hiring projections are seen within the engineering services (up 19.9 percent) and utilities (up 15.7 percent) industries, although a positive shift is also predicted for the manufacturing, retail trade, construction and transportation sectors, among others.


It means there is a wealth of opportunities now available for individuals hoping to join these professions. The benefits of doing so include access to the expertise of experienced operators in their field, as well as the possibility of securing permanent employment at the end of their tenure. However, securing an internship is just the first step. Individuals must be prepared to make the most of this opportunity, and that can be easier said than done.


How to excel in internships


Understanding the importance of making the most of the opportunities afforded to you via internships is essential, so here are some of our top tips on how to do just that:


1. Ask about the culture - As your potential future employer, use your internship as an opportunity to experience the workplace and internal culture firsthand. Ask about initiatives to create an inclusive environment, community involvement and any other characteristics you look for in an organization.


2. Make as many new contacts as possible - You never know when contacts will be useful further into your career, so take the time to introduce yourself to your colleagues and put yourself out there to start building a positive reputation in your sector.


3. Find a mentor - Establishing a mentor automatically provides long-term value from your internship. This is a person who can continue to help you establish your career path beyond the completion of the internship, and can be an important networking contact in the future.


4. Showcase leadership skills - Take the initiative. Don’t wait for peers and managers to approach you with a to-do list. Employers often use internships as a candidate pool for future hiring initiatives. Being proactive is an easy way to stand out, and will also be appreciated by your mentor.


5. Learn from other people's mistakes - Mentors and managers have experienced a lot throughout their careers and they can be a valuable resource to ensure you don't make the same mistakes that they did. Learn from your peers, your superiors and all those around you. This is an invaluable opportunity to absorb knowledge, don't waste it.


6. Expand your horizons - Internships are not only about developing skills for the future. They also offer a chance for individuals to experience elements of work they may not have encountered before. Therefore, be adventurous, be approachable for new projects and experience as many different things as possible. Ask about employee resource groups (ERGs), resources for professional development and opportunities for community involvement. You may find something that ignites a real passion.


Individuals with disabilities should also not be shy in asking what the organization’s accommodation process is, especially if needed to complete specific aspects of their role. Open and honest communication should be established with the employer from the start, including discussions around your disability and any needed accommodations. Doing so will create a trusted relationship with the employer, and could also provide additional insight into their disability inclusion efforts and values.


By giving your all and fully committing to your internship, you are able to develop new skills and enhance your future career prospects. Delivering an excellent performance throughout this process will also help to ensure that, at the end of the program, you are positioning yourself in the best possible way to secure a permanent role.


At Getting Hired, we offer a range of resources that can help individuals with disabilities to enhance their career prospects; you can visit our website to find out more.


Contributions for this blog were made by Sarah Pullano, Account Manager at Getting Hired.