An internship can be an incredibly valuable experience, but not necessarily for the skills or industry knowledge you might acquire. In fact, the majority of you will probably take positions where employers will have you do menial tasks, teach you irrelevant skills or tell you information that you already know. So for your internship this summer, don’t focus so much on what you might learn, but instead focus on the people you’re going to meet.
My No. 1 tip for any internship is to maximize networking. Way too many interns expect they’re going to learn something about advertising or media or startups or marketing or whatever industry. I want to save you time because the truth is, there’s a good chance you won’t.
The reality is that you might be running errands and getting coffee for eight weeks. Except it doesn’t matter, because the real magic of the internship is sitting right in front of you. It’s the people. It’s the people you meet who remember your hustle, tenacity, good-naturedness and willingness to put yourself out there. They are the ones who will give you the opportunities that can lead to a potential career. Learning new skills is 3 percent of the internship equation. Meeting new people is the other 97 percent. That’s where the true ROI will be.
How do you start meeting people? Go to every after-hours event. Say hello to everyone. Shake hands and kiss babies. If you are interning in an office where the culture is less outgoing and more heads down, figure out how to hack it. For example, if you are at a law firm where everyone is grinding all day in their offices, take advantage of open doors and the people you pass on the way to the kitchen. Something as simple as saying hello can be the start of a relationship, which might lead them to ask you to shadow a meeting or business pitch. You might feel like you’re being overly extroverted (or even obnoxious), but you never know what it might lead to or who might be watching.
This advice even goes for you wallflowers who are more introverted. I encourage you to put yourself out there and venture out of your comfort zone. There’s no better time than an internship to introduce yourself, ask questions and start connecting with people one on one. Otherwise you will be doing yourself a disservice.
In the next eight weeks of your summer internship, you’ll learn that our world is a simple one. It’s a people world. So even if you are in that 50 percent who are making coffee, hack it and turn it into a networking opportunity. When you drop off coffee at someone’s desk and they’ve got a Cardinals pennant, say something about Adam Wainwright. Your future career doesn’t rely solely on the job skills you might learn, but also on the relationships you’ll develop.
Take every opportunity to introduce yourself and start creating personal connections. It is the most important part and the best way to get the most from an internship.
Related: 6 Reasons I’m Thankful You Fired Me