Internships are an ideal way to get experience in an industry, learn how companies operate and network. It's also a time for students to take what they've learned in their classes and apply it in the real world, decide if a career path seems right to them and gain valuable work experience. Some people even decide to take on internships well into their careers if they're thinking about breaking into a new industry or getting back into the workplace after taking some serious time off.
Studies show that nearly three-quarters of students enrolled in four-year colleges and universities take on at least one internship during their school career. As this year's summer interns settle into their new positions, women who've been in the workplace much longer share their career advice. Here's what they have to say to this year's interns, and what they wish someone had told them when they were interns.
"Your connections will take your further than any resume or qualifications," says Melissa Chiou, a writer and content producer.
"My advice for this year's interns, regardless of role or company size (but definitely extra relevant to the fields of marketing, communications and startups): Go in with confidence!" says Kt McBratney, CMO of Seed&Spark. "Most companies and teams know that interns are valuable team members, so don't let outdated assumptions that you're 'just an intern' dim your shine before you even start. Know your worth and demonstrate the skills and insight you were hired to contribute. You are valuable, otherwise you wouldn't be part of the team."
"Be present," says Emily Withers, Digital Marketing Specialist at ICVM Group. "Do not use your phone at work — ever! Unless someone specifically asks you to check something with your phone, it should stay in your bag or pocket, or better yet, your car. Using mobile devices at work or doing similar non-work related things (ie: reading a novel, doing a crossword) is one of the fastest ways to get the boot. It shows your superiors that you don't care about the company or about them."
"Work hard, demonstrate everyday ethics and hold yourself deeply accountable," says Jacquelyn Cyr of JC+CO." These are the actions that build trust and generate future opportunity."
"Dear Gen Z interns: As the most technologically advanced, socially-conscious, boldest generation of our time... I implore you to take those positive attributes and mix in a little old school work ethic of previous generations to make yourself stand out," says Jaime Sarachit, Head of Communications for Comparably. "The way to prove yourself invaluable and turn that internship into a job or an excellent recommendation? Build solid relationships and trust among the folks you're working for. Come in early and stay late. Go the extra mile to get the job done. Speak up when asked for your opinion. Ask for extra assignments that will give you more experience. If you hear about a project where you could make an impact, raise your hand to help. Make yourself memorable by inviting the CEO or department head to coffee or lunch which is the perfect opportunity to get their words of wisdom and if you're bold enough, give them your unique Gen Z perspective on how to improve an aspect of their business."
"As a woman with 24 years of corporate experience, I would say the most important advice for women entering the workplace is to understand that you must own your career," says Rebecca Hott a certified professional coach and life strategist. "This means that you should not wait on or depend upon your company to help you find a mentor or develop your career plan. The smartest thing you can do is walk into your new boss' office and ask 'What is your biggest challenge? How can I help?' Seek out your own mentors informally by connecting with people naturally. And learn all you can about the structure of the organization and how your skill set fits into the big picture."
"Become invaluable," says Sarah Zurell, chief brand officer, executive vice president and one of the founders of Pavemint. "As an intern, you have the chance to become the person your boss can’t live without. Take on new projects, share your brilliant ideas and shine like the bright diamond that you are! Remember that you offer a fresh perspective, and that is valuable. Don’t get discouraged if they don’t always use your ideas. Take the notes, learn from them and try again. That’s why you’re there! Also, remember that the way you take criticism matters. Exercise grace in all things that you do, especially when it’s hard. Know that if your boss isn’t being kind to you, it likely has more to do with their own stress levels than with anything you’ve done. Instead of taking it personally, take it as an opportunity to make their life a little easier and stand out from the rest of the group."
"Let this summer surprise you," says Bella Kazwell at Asana. "Try working on something meaty and not necessarily what you think you'll like. Are you a user interface whiz? Try out security. Do you think that writing proofs on a white board is the best thing since sliced bread? See what it's like to work with a product manager and a designer to solve a user need. Aim for breadth."
"My advice would be to interact with and offer your help to those who are in positions you would like to have in the company in a few years," says Stacy Caprio of Accelerated Growth Marketing. "Get to know them, get to know what they like and dislike about your job to help you determine if it's actually a good fit, and offer them help and assistance even when unasked, as this will help you gain relevant experience and even build a connection in the industry you want to enter in the future.
Some of this advice will help interns set themselves up for full-time rides.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a multimedia journalist and an adventure aficionado with a keen cultural curiosity and an affinity for solo travel. She's an editor by day and a travel blogger at HerReport.org by night.