How to make the most out of your internship
Only you yourself can influence the amount of benefit you will get from your internship.
Qualitative work experience is definitely an advantage when you start to look for jobs! Try to get working tasks that develop your generic skills, i.e. skills similar to those needed in the job you're aiming for. If you work hard at your internship, you’ll benefit from good references and useful contacts.
Contract of employment and work certificate
In most cases the student is employed by the company during the internship and a contract of employment is drawn up and signed by both parties (intern and the company). Good to think about regarding the contract:
- If the employment lasts more than one month, the employer is obliged to provide a written statement of the core conditions of employment. The statement should indicate the parties to the contract and the date when employment commenced.
- If the job is on a temporary basis the contract should further include: time period of the contract, the work site, the employee's main duties and salary, pay period, working hours, vacation and holiday pay, as well as criteria for giving notice any applicable collective agreements. The contract can also include details such as education and travel allowances.
When the internship is over, the employer is obliged to provide a work certificate should the employee so request. In its most elementary form the certificate should indicate:
- The duration of the working relationship.
- A description of the duties of the employee.
- The reason for termination of the employment.
- An assessment of the employee’s achievements are included only at the request of the employee, so remember to ask the employer to include these!
Get to know your workplace before the internship
It pays to be in contact with the employer before the internship period starts. You can talk to your supervisor, familiarize yourself with the organization and agree on the lesser details of your duties. A contract of employment can also be concluded before you enter your internship. You can get a head start by asking for extra information in advance, for example material that helps you familiarize yourself with your work and the workplace. Consider the following things:
- Why is the internship important?
- What do you want to learn during your internship?
- How do you face different problems and challenges and what could these be?
- How will you use the experience you have gained in the future?
- How will you use your experiences from the internship when looking for a job and how will they help you develop your job-hunting skills?
- The employer's point of view: what does the employer expect from you?
Observe your work place during the internship
Job-hunting requires its own set of skills. During your internship, it pays to become familiar with the organization’s recruitment principles and customs and the overall look of employment in your industry. You can contact your internship human resources department or your boss. At the same time you can check whether there are opportunities for further cooperation, such as summer jobs or possibilities for cooperation on your master’s thesis. You can also request feedback on your performance at work, your application letter and CV, and ask why they chose to hire you. Don’t forget to develop your network of contacts during the internship!
Guidance during the internship plays an important part in how successful your internship will be. Your supervisor is an expert in his field, so take this opportunity to ask for feedback on your work. It’s wise to agree on certain practical issues at the beginning of your internship: for instance how often you meet, how you will work together, and how to evaluate the progress of the internship. It’s a good idea to agree on regular meetings, e.g. regular lunch meetings.
During the internship you should be prepared to take the initiative and work independently, as the supervisor may not be available at all times. Be responsible, be active and enterprising. Make observations, be open to new perspectives and be prepared to take initiatives. If you feel that your supervision is lacking or your work tasks are not those previously agreed on, don’t hesitate to discuss the problem with your supervisor. As a new employee, an intern has the right to an introduction and orientation to get acquainted with the workplace. Many companies have instructions for this. You can ask for these instructions.
Improve your expertise
The aim of an internship is to put the student’s theoretical knowledge into practice. To become an expert in your field, this is a very important step. It’s difficult to measure how successful you are at this. To assist in this analysis, you can use "capture" to reflect on your own skills. (Vesterinen 2002, 169-172), i.e. divide your obtained skills through the points below.
Core Expertise - generic/transferable skills
- General working knowledge, including problem-solving, organization, time use, social skills, teamwork, creativity, information processing
- Working-life values and culture, including work ethic, pride in and responsibility for one’s work, trustworthiness and respect for one’s colleagues
Professional skills – work-related and context-bound
- An overall knowledge of one’s own sector and one’s own tasks; an extensive understanding of the whole sector of industry, leadership skills, development potential, decision-making capability, ability to work independently, and analytical thinking.
Specialist knowledge – task-specific and workplace-specific
- Skills linked to one's own specialized knowledge of the sector and of one’s own tasks within it. A continuing development of one’s specialized skills.