The end of the school year is quickly approaching, and internship season is in full swing. Internships serve as more than just another entry on your resume; they are rewarding opportunities to develop your abilities and test the waters in a field of interest. They can also help you build a network of colleagues who can offer more opportunities for professional growth in the future. Internships allow for hands-on experience in the workforce that will make you feel more comfortable and confident. However, interns don’t receive these benefits through coffee runs and counting down the minutes to 5 p.m. Here are a few tips on how to maximize your summer internship experience:

Set goals for yourself.
At the beginning of your internship, figure out what you want to accomplish and take away from this opportunity. Internships are what you make of them, so setting goals for yourself will ensure you walk away with something valuable. Ask your supervisor what is expected of you and what you can do to meet his or her expectations. By doing this, you gain structure and eliminate unnecessary frustration or issues. Setting and tracking these goals for yourself will lead to a deeper sense of accomplishment when you finish.

Continue to network.
Take advantage of the fact that you are working with like-minded individuals who have experiences different from your own. Form connections with them and build relationships — it can even be as simple as inviting them out for coffee and conversation. Colleagues can provide you with advice, write recommendation letters and help you grow as a professional. Those who have worked with the company for a long time will be able to answer questions and clarify any ambiguities. In the future, you may want to work for the company again, so building relationships with these people as an intern will only bring you closer to this goal.

Get comfortable with the uncomfortable.
Remember, internships are an opportunity to learn in a hands-on environment. Be flexible and willing to step outside of your comfort zone. By trying new things, you might discover talents you didn’t know you had. Take advantage of the opportunity to work alongside individuals that have a variety of proficiencies and knowledge to offer. Instead of saying “no,” say “I am willing to learn how to do this.” Take notes, ask questions and be proactive. Volunteering for tasks that are not assigned to you demonstrates initiative and assists others.

Reflect and move forward.
At the end of your internship, reflect on your experience. Take inventory of the skills you have gained and all of the things you have accomplished. Think about whether this is an experience you enjoyed, or if this career field might not be meant for you. Regardless, the experience was still valuable. Ask your supervisor and peers for feedback on your performance so you can learn which areas need improvement which were viewed as successful. Finally, update your resume! Include key accomplishments, including new skills and projects. By reflecting on your experience, you know what steps you can take to move forward on your career path.

Working during the summer may seem like a buzzkill, but it’s important to remember how much you can gain throughout the course of a summer internship. Utilizing these tips will help you maximize your time as an intern and set yourself up for future success in any field!

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