1. Be curious and ask questions
Were you also brought up to believe that curiosity and “poking your nose into other people’s business” is rude? Then it might be a good idea to start thinking differently about your curiosity. Specifically, asking questions and being curious can be a good tool to get the most out of your internship or (student) job.
When you're curious, you show your colleagues and your manager that you are interested in them, your tasks and the organization. The questions can both help you get to know your new colleagues better and get a better understanding of your tasks. By asking questions, you will get a deeper insight into what your colleagues are doing and what is happening in the company. Perhaps your colleague is about to put the finishing touch to a project application, or is working on a challenge you can help solve using the tools you know from your education.
You might feel like you’re asking “stupid questions” or asking questions about something you should know the answer to, but remember that your questions show that you would like to know even more and that you are humble about your tasks.
Go for the ball, not the playerWhen asking critical questions, it is important that you ask detailed questions about the case. You should go after the ball, not the player, so to speak. Be considerate and polite. Your new colleagues have probably put a lot of effort into this particular solution. You can show courtesy and respect through meta-communication. For example, say: “I am just curious about...” or “I want to know more about...”
2. Be conscious of how you work
Do you work best in teams or alone? Do you focus on details or do you see the big picture? What are your main skills? And how do you contribute as a colleague?
As a student and graduate, it can be hard to answer that kind of question. Use your internship or student job to get to know yourself better as an employee and how you relate to your work. Which tasks give you the most energy? Which do you like the best? Which are hardest for you? What kind of colleague are you? Notice the personal, academic and subejct specific competences you use. You use your competences all the time when you solve tasks, collaborate with colleagues and even during the lunch break. You might also notice skills that you want to develop. Ask for new tasks or take opportunities to work on new projects where you can evolve.
Use the opportunity to notice your competences and write them down, ideally with examples too. It will make it easier for you to describe your competences the next time you are going to write an application.
3. Make your tasks focused and relevant
Dothe tasks job fit with your interests or skills? No? If you feel you could do more or something other than the tasks you are doing, you can influence them, so they become more relevant to your education and your future job.
By using your curiosity and talking with your colleagues/manager, you will get a better understanding of the challenges the company is facing, and which tasks or problems that are not being solved right now. How can you use your professional skills to solve these challenges?
Once you have thought about the tasks you want to solve and how you can contribute to solving them, it's time to talk to the relevant person in your department. When you talk to them it is important that you are specific about how you can help solving the tasks. It is also important that you focus on how it will benefit the company if you work on these tasks, instead or on top of the tasks you already have. They will focus on benefit, so it's a good idea if you do that too.
4. Use it as a stepping stone for the rest of your work life
What do you want to get out of the internship or job? Try setting a goal to ensure that you get the most out of it. Would you like to do a thesis project with them? Would you like to get a job with them? If you do, you need to act on it.
Talk to your manager
Start the dialogue early on. Give the impression that you are happy to be there and you want to continue there or collaborate with them, you give your manager the opportunity to start thinking about the future of the company.
By identifying tasks and challenges in the company where you can contribute, you make it easier for your manager to see the need to hire you. Show them what you can do.