How to make the most of your internship
For all young graduates that are trying to break out into the job world - an internship is often the best (sometimes the only!) option. It is also an undeniably great way to gain experience, exposure and skills without having an overwhelming sense of responsibility. As we get our first taste of the working world, how can we make the most of it by absorbing as much as possible while still adding value? How can we reach the happy medium of what an internship should be?

As my boss once said: “This is your time. If you are not making mistakes, you are not learning.”

And this point is exactly where some people fall short in their internship experience. There is increased pressure to be perfect and to impress your colleagues. But we are young, we are inexperienced, and if there ever was time to make a multitude of mistakes - it’s now.

Over the last 6 months, these are some of the things I have learnt to have a successful internship:

1. Ask questions from the get-go.

It is tempting to act like you are way more experienced than you actually are and have a wealth of knowledge behind you. As you sit in your office, given a task that you don’t really know how to handle, you may appear calm on the outside but on the inside, you are screaming, “OMG!!! WTF do I do now?!?!?” Instead of spending hours on the task - from the get-go - ASK QUESTIONS. As someone once said, “It’s better to ask all the questions, upfront, because people may be less inclined to help later on.”

Of course, first and foremost, be resourceful - gain as much knowledge and insight into a task as possible. With a pen and paper in hand, after digesting your brief, pinpoint what you understand, what you don’t, and formulate some questions to ask.

On a side note - an internship is also your time to absorb as much information as possible. Squeeze as much as you can out of it, and ask away - even if you think your questions sound profoundly simple.
2. Fake it until you make it
Now, this may sound contradictory to my first point. I am not saying that you should “fake your knowledge” - as in the long run this never works out. The holes in your knowledge will eventually begin to seep through. I am talking about confidence. As someone who is inherently shy - this is something I have personally struggled with. However, you have to challenge yourself to speak up, be heard, and own your space. After all, you have worked hard to secure this internship! You deserve to be here as much as anyone else - so don’t let your lack of experience or age deter you from actively voicing your ideas.
3. Extreme Ownership
We all know the age-old interview question: “How do you take criticism?”

I always thought this was something that I was fairly good at until the point at which I actually had to take responsibility for tasks that colleagues or clients (rightly so) were poking holes in. It is so easy to immediately get defensive and compile a list of reasons why a certain task has been actioned in a certain way. Or if you missed a deadline - for whatever reason, maybe due to a never-ending to-do list, lack of clarity in a task, or being unsure of how to do things - take ownership over that. You’ll have a lot more energy than if you take a defensive route that entices feelings of resentment - simply take ownership over your mistakes. Going further than this, note the feedback down, acknowledge if you’ve made any mistakes, and touch base with someone on your team and outline how you will fix it. The final part is the important one - because that shows that you are proactively taking ownership over things to better yourself.

You are not perfect and no one expects you to be. So make mistakes, challenge yourself to OWN them, and then make the moves to fix them! In a society that preaches perfectionism, mistakes are frowned upon, but, in fact, they are an opportunity to improve.

4. Find your mentor and hold on tight
One of the most exciting aspects of an internship is that you have an opportunity to gain as much experience as you can and absorb as much information as you can - not only from your workplace but also from the people you are working with. Gaining insight into how someone’s brain works is incredibly valuable - how they think, how they strategize and how they go about tasks can give you some great life-hacks for you to take on for yourself.

So when you find this person (often their skill set aligns with what you wish to achieve) hold on tight! These people have already made mistakes and have the experience that you lack - so watch them, learn as much as you can from them, and ask them questions as you navigate your internship.

5. Don’t be too hard on yourself
Lastly, don’t be too hard on yourself. You are learning and you are entitled to make mistakes. While there is a desire to impress those around you, don’t let that urge cause major anxiety or have a crippling effect on your work.

Perhaps, your internship is not what you thought it would be or maybe you are doubting the industry you have found yourself trying to pursue. Don’t be disheartened. Everyone aims to find out different things about themselves and their career during this period. As long as you are measuring your internship against these two things - Am I making mistakes? Am I learning from them? - you are bound to flourish!

Good luck!