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How to make the most of your internship

5/6/2016

Being an intern is a bit like being the new kid in pre-school. You first have to get over the shock of being the new kid on the block — pronto — and then join in on the rush and buzz. Hesitation or over-zealousness means that you’ll find yourself incompatible with the gang of restless and unruly classmates.

Now, while awkwardness on the playground can quickly be solved by a few sugar-fuelled screaming and running sessions, in the workplace non-involvement or a lack of pro-activity can deprive you of an invaluable opportunity.

As an intern at WE South Africa, I’ve seen, heard and learnt a lot. So, from one intern to another (if you’re not one now I’m assuming you were at some point), here are five ways in which I have made the most of this opportunity:

Become a human sponge

There are countless suggestions on how to learn as much as you can when you’re new or temporary at your workplace. I’ve found that the only way to learn is to do. In an internship situation especially, the need for you (the intern) to absorb as much you can and start showing your value within the organisation is as important as making a profit is for a business.

Be the problem-solver and not the problem that needs solving

For whatever challenge, glitch or impasse at the office, you as the intern should be on your feet and ready with solutions. Involving yourself with the various accounts and being present at the various briefing, brainstorming and status meetings is the best way to familiarise yourself with the work being done. By using this information, you will get the insight you need to add real value when it’s needed.

Be proactive instead of reactive

There’s nothing more valuable than a person who does not wait to be told what to do, but rather recognises that something needs to be done. Proactively coming up with content plans or campaign ideas will certainly show your ability to think and function independently. Your presence in the office will certainly be viewed positively if you are the type of intern who self-motivates and operates without the need to be babysat.

Ask lots of questions

Interns tend to fear being viewed as not knowing anything, and try to avoid asking “stupid questions”. However, the last thing you need to worry about is asking too many questions. The reason you’re there as an intern is that you are still learning — and this is your golden opportunity. So keep asking, and learn as much as you possibly can.

Don’t over-extend yourself

The whole point of an internship is for you to learn and find ways of effectively completing whatever work you’re given. As the eager-to-learn self-starter you are, the last thing you want is for you or your work to be deemed unreliable.

Whenever you’re feeling out of your depths (as you might be most of the time in the beginning), don’t hesitate to let it be known that you don’t know how to do this or that assignment or even that you need a little more time to complete it. Remember, suffering in silence isn’t going to do you or the agency any favours.

So, fellow intern (or prospective one at least), being useful takes a combination of willingness, effort and persistence. Make the most of the opportunity and demonstrate your value through your conduct, attitude and capabilities. Oh, and one last thing, try become part of the family — show everyone what it is to work with you every day, and what they’ll be missing when you’re gone.

Innocent Dlamini is an intern at WE South Africa

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