Recently, internships have been in the news, thanks to a recent ruling regarding unpaid internships . While the actual future of unpaid and low-paid internships remain in doubt, the reality is that internships are likely to continue to be a part of professional development.
No matter what you think of internships , and whether you are paid or not, they can offer a great stepping stone to your career. However, you have to be willing to do what it takes to make the most of your internship.
Creating a Good Internship Experience
“Although internships are a great way to gain real life work experience and hone professional skills, not all internships are the same,” says Robin Reshwan, the founder of career consulting firm Collegial Services. Her very first suggestion is that interns plan for success, looking for meaningful work duties and participating in tangible projects.
Reshwan suggests that you look for opportunities to develop useful skills. “Will this role introduce or expand a desired or highly transferrable skill set?” she says to ask yourself. “Seek out projects with take away experience.”
But you should also remember that it’s not just about you. Reshwan says that you’ll get more out of your internship  if you are committed and engaged the whole way through. You need to show that you are a team player, and ready to lend a hand. And pay attention to evaluations.
“Well though out internship programs include performance evaluations,” says Reshwan. “As an intern, ask for feedback if evaluations are not offered.” This ways, you can take an opportunity to improve your skills and performance. You’ll also impress your manager with your willingness to accept constructive criticism so that you can improve.
Making Connections with Your Internship
One of the best ways to get the best results out of your internship is through the connections you make. You might be able to get a job after college  with the company you interned for.
Even if you don’t get a job with that company, you can still benefit from your internship connections. “Be sure to ask managers and colleagues if they would be willing to recommend your work on LinkedIn,” suggests Reshwan. “Very few college students know how to use LinkedIn recommendations, yet most experienced recruiters look for recommendations as validation that others appreciated your work.”
She says that even with a mediocre internship, you can get a nice boost to your LinkedIn profile, and increase your visibility, with recommendations.
You can also ask those you worked with during an internship for letters of recommendation. If you want to go to grad school, or if you need a reference for a job, the people you meet during an internship can be a great help. This means that you need to invest some time into developing these relationships and making a good impression.
In the end, even an unpaid internship still has benefits. If you are savvy about the way you work, you can have a good experience, and come out with some connections that make it all worthwhile.
(Photo: Sean MacEntee )