A word often accompanied by a shiver of fear and a tingle of anticipation, internships are often necessary in finding your dream job.
In tough economic times, employers relish the term, "cheap labor," a.k.a. the intern. Full of vigor and promise, the intern works hard for little or no money. Although interns need more supervision than seasoned veterans, from an employer perspective, their lower cost typically offsets their requirement of extra training time.
So if you're looking for a next step, find an internship and do it today while companies are still hiring for the summer.
Here's why: What begins as a convenience often turns into a necessity. Right now, companies are pinched for extra dollars and aren't able to retain the amount of staff they're used to. With an intern, they have the opportunity to train them on the basics and see what they can do.
This is where your future comes in. Prove that what begins as a small investment during a bad economy is invaluable when the tide turns.
Below are a few ways to demonstrate to your employer that what began as an internship could be a mutually beneficial full-time position in the future.
Find projects. The intern who sits at a desk and waits for projects is the intern who's out the door at the end of the summer. Remember that there is al;ways more work to be done. Go out and look for it. At the end of the day, you'll have learned a lot more than if you'd been Facebooking all afternoon.
Make a list. On your first day as an intern, open up an Excel file and create a spreadsheet of projects. With each new project, update your list. Include as many details as possible. Examples include the name of the project, who you worked with, what it entailed, new skills you learned, what software/tools you used to complete it, due date, feedback, etc. At the end of your time as an intern, you'll have a record of all the great things you've done.
Report your progress. There's nothing wrong with keeping your boss updated. At the end of the week, take a look at your list and compose an email that includes all of the projects on your plate, their due dates, what you've completed and whether or not you're ready to take on more. This will help your supervisor to better monitor your progress -- and it lets them know that you're both busy and proactive.
Blow them away in practice. Being an intern is often like being the bench warmer on a basketball team. The best interns rock their warm-ups and sink every shot. They're prepared and informed, and better yet, they're creative and curious. They ask questions. They've put time and thought into each project, and they have ideas on how to make it better. When they're called in, they bring their A-game.
Make yourself an expert. Maybe you're a social-networking whiz. Maybe you've researched the new client like crazy and have a solid grasp of what's worked for their industry in the past. Perhaps you've developed a great relationship with the account you've been working on. Whatever it is, find a way to increase your worth to the company. Know or be something that no one else can.
All of this is easier said than done, but as an intern, you have an awesome opportunity to prove how valuable you can be. Whatever you do, work hard and have a positive attitude. Hopefully, as the economy starts to come back around, you'll be the first place they look for a full-timer.