Getting there: Making an internship work for you

Some of us remember internships spent washing cars, getting coffee, or bathing dogs. Some of us remember worse.

Modern internships have evolved well beyond menial tasks. Internships now are pathways to hands-on work experience and valuable connections in any industry. They’re ways to apply knowledge to real-world situations and can be valuable for interns and employers alike.

Although the majority of interns are students, internships aren’t reserved for them alone. They can be meaningful ways to switch careers and learn new skills for adults too.

Here are ways to make the most out of your internships and make them work for you:

Seek Mentors Finding experienced mentors can last well beyond an internship. Establishing a relationship with someone can lead to job references, better advice, or training opportunities weeks, months, or years after the internship has ended. Seek a knowledgeable mentor and foster the relationship; be flexible with your time and respectful. It could pay dividends in the future.

Get Credit Some internships are unpaid, but most will offer college credit. Check with school counselors to see if your internship can count for credit, which may involve some kind of cooperation between your internship coordinator and school. If no credit is available or you’re not in school, ask for a recommendation letter at the end of your term if a stipend or pay isn’t available.

Know what to expect Ask the internship coordinator what a typical day is like, and if they’ve had interns before. For both parties (intern and employer) to get the most out of an internship, setting clear goals is best. Don’t expect any intern to be handed keys to the building on the first day but do expect that you’ll have the opportunity to make a meaningful contribution.