How to make the most of your internship abroad
“At the end of the day, let there be no excuses, no explanations, no regrets.” -Steve Maraboli
Opportunity is what you make of it. An internship abroad is an opportunity – the success of the experience depends on what you put into it. Investing time, hard work and energy into an internship abroad will yield positive and career-changing results. Apathy, laziness and sloth, on the other hand, will lead to a disappointing experience. If you’re keen on making your international experience work for you, commit yourself to the internship, stay focused and follow these 10 helpful tips on how to make the most of your internship abroad (and eventually land that dream job).
“How can I make the most of my internship abroad?”
1. Be proactive
First and foremost, you must take the initiative to get what you want out of your internship. Say “yes” as much as possible – this is not the time to be shy, tentative or nervous. Take on challenges, new tasks and responsibilities at work, but also be proactive socially. Engage with your coworkers and the people that you meet abroad as much as possible, ask them questions, get to know them. This is your opportunity to be an international professional – don’t hold yourself back because you’re afraid. Don’t let your fear have a say.
2. Take it all in
Maximize your observation skills. Pay close attention to the details of your internship. Watch and take note of how your colleagues interact with your boss. Listen to the words used to describe different work tasks and be aware of expectations. What’s the difference between doing a “sufficient” or an “excellent” job? Absorbing all of these details – both personal and professional – will help you adjust to expectations and cultural nuances within the company and culture. They’ll also be useful for professional contexts in the future – like your first job.
3. Consider your duties
As an intern, your role at the company may evolve over time as your supervisors recognize your abilities. It’s your job to try to prove to them that you can take on more. As you complete these assigned tasks and projects, you need to recognize the value that you add to the workplace. This is important in any work context – knowing your role in the company and what your contribution is adding. Being aware of this will come in handy for future job interviews, as you will need to know and demonstrate how you could fit into a company in a permanent position.
4. Know what you do well (and not so well)
Playing to your strengths is important in any work setting, which is why it’s a good idea to identify them early on in an internship setting. Taking on tasks and challenges that accentuate what you’re good at is great because you’ll be able to impress your superiors with your skill level. That being said, don’t be afraid to also take on some work that will improve your not-so-strong suits. Figure out what specifically you find challenging and how to minimize those struggles.
5. Make authentic personal connections
Be friendly. Friendlier than normal. Try harder than you ever have at making friends and being social and it will pay off. Not only will you learn a lot about different cultures and people, but you’ll also make some work contacts that will serve as references and people to bounce ideas off of when you’re further along in your career. Similarly, you’ll make some international friends with couches that you can crash on around the world. It takes extra effort when you come from different cultures – but that’s also what makes these friendships and connections more rewarding in the long run.
6. Respond and act quickly
This one is pretty straight forward. Don’t say “hold on” to your boss, just do it. Email back as soon as you can, get work done by the deadlines that they have set. Respect their authority and be as swift and communicative as possible.
7. Appreciate cultural differences
Take the differences in culture as positively as possible and give people the benefit of the doubt when they do something that you find strange, or even rude. Consider, genuinely, the way they are approaching an issue or situation, not just out of respect but also because it might help your process in the future. People solve problems in many different ways – they can all be right.
8. Follow your passion
Hopefully, you’re already interested in your internship subject – since you chose it to begin with. Try to find what specifically, within the career field, interests you the most. Volunteer to take on projects that motivate you. You’ll be more likely to work harder and do a better job because you find the subject interesting – it’s not just a job anymore, it’s a passion.
9. Take time to reflect after it’s all over
Evaluating the internship experience is important so you can really appreciate everything that you learned. Realizing how you contributed to the team and grew as a professional is also crucial for when you’re filling out job applications and interviewing. Talking about your internship abroad isn’t enough – you have to talk about what you learned and how that has prepared you for a full-time position.
10. Get a job
Now that you’ve done the internship abroad, reflected on what you’ve learned, and headed back to your home country, it’s time to get a job. Search for jobs similar to your internship, reach out to colleagues from your internship in case they know of openings somewhere near you or have work friends in your area. Make sure to highlight your work experience on your resume, being specific about your duties and how you contributed to the company. Practice your interview with someone before the real thing to make sure that your anecdotal evidence of your time abroad backs up your work experience and matches what the job is looking for. If you’re active and persistent during the job search (just like at your internship), you’ll get hired in no time!
If you’re yet to secure your internship abroad, apply today for an internship in London, New York, Hong Kong, Spain, Australia or Latin America!
Photo 1. by The Intern Group