These days, internships are a pretty standard part of starting a career. I’ve completed several internships, and they’ve taught me a lot about my field. In fact, the university I attend has a 6-month internship placement program that almost everyone is required to complete. Prospective employers now often look for previous internship experience when interviewing applicants, and internships offer great insight into what working in a particular field is really like. Here are 7 ways to get the most out of your internship experience:

1. Say yes.

Seriously, unless it’s something illegal, say yes. Someone wants you to file something? Yes. You’re asked to check on the status of something in another department? Yes. You’re an unpaid intern and you’re told to do something unrelated to your job description or gopher work? No. (Know your rights as an unpaid intern — that’s illegal!) However, in most cases, anything anyone asks you to do will be for your benefit. You also don’t want to be remembered as the intern that said no. Internships provide great opportunities for networking, so do your best to impress your coworkers!

2. Don’t set your hopes too high.

I’ll use my internship experiences as an example: as a journalism student, I would love to get a big feature piece. However, as an intern, that’s just not going to happen. I got bylined stories, and I was happy to have gotten them. Make sure your expectations are realistic. If you’re expecting too much, you’ll spend your internship being disappointed.

3. Meet everyone.

People know other people, and those people might be able to help you out down the road. I’ve gotten interviews based solely on knowing someone who knows someone. It’s important to make a good impression and to reach out to anyone and everyone you work with. You never know what kind of connections you’ll make.

4. Write everything down.

There’s nothing worse than forgetting to do something at your internship. It’s embarrassing. As the new person, you’ll want to try your hardest to do what people ask in a timely fashion. And, as an intern, it’s likely that the list of things that people ask you to do will be long. Really long. So write it all down to make sure you get it done.

5. Look for opportunities to improve.

At my last internship, I got the chance to write the style section of the magazine I worked at. I had been working there for about two months and asked for the opportunity. Had I not asked, the answer would have been no. I gambled and ended up getting to write the piece, even though I had never written a fashion-related thing in my life. Always look for ways in which you can improve and grow.

6. Be super nice.

Interns are sometimes treated like godsends, and are other times treated like nobodies. It all depends on the culture of the company or organization you work for. No matter where you fall on the spectrum of intern-appreciation, make sure you’re always nice and professional. Word gets around, and you want to keep as many doors open to you as possible.

7. Say thank you.

Internships are competitive and, often, optional for the company. So make sure you thank everyone at your organization for guiding you through your internship experience and for teaching you the ropes. This is especially true at the end of your time as an intern. Saying thank you not only shows your appreciation, but leaves everyone with a positive feeling about you (which might come in handy later down the line when you need to network or some career advice).

Featured photo credit: Ken Colwell via flickr.com

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