Internships are a great way to gain industry specific skills and learn what it takes to be successful in you chosen career field, but what do you do when there is down time? Trust me, there is down time in every job and position. Be proactive and take initiative! The time you spend at an internship is valuable so use your time wisely, especially during the less active periods of time. You won’t learn if you hide at your desk and browse Facebook and Instagram all day long. Using your time appropriately to self-educate and research on the company’s goals, direction, and/or new business developments will show the company your interest and drive to learn. Think of how you can enhance the needs of the company and your own career and professional development.
- Research trends and competitors in the industry to see how the company you work for can bench-mark and create new initiatives.
- Learn a new relevant technical skill. Maybe you’ve wanted to try your hand at InDesign or learn how to properly use Access. Lynda.psu.edu has plenty of free online training available for Penn State students.
- Ask your supervisor if there are any additional projects you can help with. Odds are, your supervisor is busy and could use your help on something. If you supervisor doesn’t have any immediate task for you, ask them who else may need help on a project.
- Ask for permission to check in with with other professionals and executives in the office to learn about their roles and how they connect to the company as a whole.
- Read industry magazines, the newspaper, and articles on the internet to stay informed. LinkedIn is a great place to start.
In addition to staying active and engaged in your internship, what happens if you are working on a project and you get stuck? How can you make sure your work is headed in the right direction? Don’t just run to your supervisor or project manager every time you have a question. They also have important projects and tasks they are working on so take ownership of your role by showing the team you can problem solve and use your resources. Identify how you can bring potential solutions to your supervisor instead of just saying there is a problem. Follow the steps below to help you use your resources before addressing your supervisor:
- Identify the problem. Ask “Why?” to discover the root cause of the problem.
- Determine solution criteria by define the goals and objectives the solution needs to meet.
- Research potential solutions and brainstorm how those solutions may or may not solve the problem.
- Analyze each potential solution against the criteria set above and determine which solution makes the most sense based on your research findings
- Select the best solution based on your evaluation and be able to explain why you feel it makes the most sense.
- Determine how the recommended solution could be implemented and what resources are needed.
- Meet with your supervisor or project manager to discuss your ideas and potential solutions.
As Jim Rohn, American Author said, “To solve any problem, here are three questions to ask yourself: First, what could I do? Second, what could I read? And third, who could I ask?”