For most Millennials, finding and landing a summer internship seems like the hardest part of making summer plans. But once you get there, how do you turn those 10 short weeks into an even bigger opportunity? How do you rock your internship?
Coca-Cola recently hosted a panel of professionals to chat with interns and recent graduates about the best ways to succeed this summer. The event at Coke's Atlanta headquarters was organized by the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication’s Young Alumni Council from the University of Georgia.
Tripp Cagle, communications manager at Southern Company, moderated the panel, which included Tia Jackson, vice president of recruitment for Edelman South; Son Pham, director of university relations at Cox Communications; Tim Davies, vice president and market manager at Radio One; and Colleen Murphy, public relations account executive at Jackson Spalding. With backgrounds ranging from communications to recruitment, panel members were well equipped to share their experiences on networking and building lasting relationships with professionals across a variety of industries.
Here are five tips the panelists shared:
1. Ask questions, even if that means asking for help.
The most important thing an intern can do is ask questions and learn. An internship experience is about gaining critcal job skills, learning the business of the company and the profession in general. Davies suggested asking the question, “What can I do better?” It’s important to know that interns are expected to make mistakes. They're what allow people to grow and mature. The only fatal mistake you can make is not asking for help. Sometimes when work becomes overwhelming, interns feel the need to appear capable of doing it all. However, learning your limitations and recognizing you need help is one of the most valuable lessons you can learn. This will help you become more efficient and reach your full potential.
2. Network, network, network!
“Always be networking,” said Jackson. “And utilize your resources well.” Whether in an internship or at a networking event, interns should always remember that they might only be one connection away from their dream job. Interns should shake hands and exchange names and contact information with everyone they meet. Keep in mind that networking is only successful when you follow up.
Managers are people, too, and they want to talk about themselves... and you! Murphy explained that the trick to networking is going deeper to get to know people and establishing connections that will help them remember you. Interns should also take the opportunity to network among themselves, because your peers will continue to be your peers in the industry.
3. Always be polite, friendly, professional and hungry for humble pie.
From the second you leave your house, you should be polite, kind and courteous to everyone you meet. You never know if the person at the reception desk, in the lobby or even holding the door open for you is just a stranger or the boss. Be professional before, during and after the interview. Social media is a great tool for connecting with friends and family, there is an appropriate time and place for it.
Professional courtesy also means being humble. Too many interns go into the job thinking that certain tasks are beneath them instead of recognizing that no job is too small to give their best effort.
4. Volunteer ideas and act as a generational resource.
As an intern, you have a unique opportunity to bridge the generational gap in the office and provide insight into the cultural happenings of Millennials. Providing unique ideas and suggestions for how a company may connect with the upcoming generations makes interns especially valuable assets.
Act as a resource. As you learn from your mentors, teach them a thing or two about the latest and greatest apps or tech innovations. By helping your company, you build relationships. Don't be afraid to speak up in meetings; offering upknowledge is a great way to stand out.
5. Be yourself and find your passion.
“Let your personality shine,” said Pham. As an intern, it’s not only important to be a team player, but also to get to know your coworkers...and let them get to know you. By getting to know the team, you learn more about their experiences and can help determine your passions.
Davies suggested being honest if you don’t know where your passions lie. Internships are about preparing for your future and discovering what you might want to do. Do not be discouraged if the perfect summer internship does not turn out to be the perfect career for you. It’s just as important to learn what you do not want to do as it is to find something you’re truly passionate about doing. “There’s the opinion about the job, and then there’s reality,” said Davies. The most successful interns learn the reality of the job and plan their futures accordingly.
Ananda Costa and Emily Goodhart are summer interns at The Coca-Cola Company