Manar Al Hinai: Good interns will go the extra mile

Interns are interested in working with start-ups and SMEs to learn more about starting a business, and entrepreneurs can learn a lot from fresh graduates, as they prove fresh insight into matters.

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According to a Bloomberg report, 75 per cent of college students intern in companies. These experiences aid students in shaping their CVs, compare different industries to see which one they see themselves in and often a place where they find their life calling. It was not until a client of mine interned in a public entity that she realised that her true calling is to be a freelance graphic designer and establish a design studio, rather than working for someone.

In addition, with the job market highly competitive and employers becoming more selective, internships that would usually last for about three months now can extend for up to a year. Last week I met one of these interns, who has been interning at a company for almost a year now, and she still is uncertain about her future, whether they will hire her permanently, and does not see that she is making any positive impressions.

Interns are also interested in working with start-ups and SMEs to learn more about starting a business, and entrepreneurs can learn a lot from fresh graduates, as they provide fresh insight into matters.

In my company we worked with several interns for different roles, and I know the pressure that they go through to make the right impression. But in addition to trying to impress those they work for, how can interns learn what they need to know? Here are some tips:

Punctuality is key. Although many interns are eager to learn more about the job they are interning for, others do not take it seriously, arrive late and ask to leave early. Being punctual not only shows respect but also dedication and interest in the job. When you are on the job, arrive early. Attend meetings on time. Take notes. Do your homework. Act like you are already part of the team.

If you have any question about a task, try to research it first. If it has to do with policies or procedures, it could be available on your company’s shared drive or intranet. Sometimes asking questions instead of conducting simple research where you could find the answer might make you seem lazy and dependent. On the contrary, you want to be resourceful and independent. That is not to say that you should shy away from asking questions altogether. Being inquisitive and displaying interest in how a job is done, how it could be improved and discussing new approaches, will make you more appealing and interesting.

Build your network. You have two options here. You could go to work, do your job, and leave. Or you could use this time to get to know your colleagues, learn more about the company and broaden your network base. Perhaps you would not land a job with this particular company, but it could connect you with someone who is looking to hire. Keeping in touch with your network from time to time and strengthening that relationship could help open doors for you in the future.

Do more. Instead of sitting and checking your phone or waiting for a task to be given to you, ask if there is something more to do or offer to help someone with completing a task. Personally, I still remember interns who went above and beyond doing a simple task, to actually suggesting other options and ways of doing them.

Last but not least, dedicate yourself to every task, no matter how small or mundane it may seem. If you are asked to file something, give it your best. If you are asked to draft a list of companies, do it the best way you can. Often some employers do this purposely to see if you are really interested in the job.

Internships are hard, so try to fit in the corporate culture and impress your employers. Doing just what you are asked to do is not enough. In a highly competitive market, you need to show your interest, often in doing more than what is expected of you.

Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati writer and communications consultant based in Abu Dhabi. Twitter: @manar_alhinai.

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