Internships: Learn A Little, Network A Lot

Every Summer interns take their wide-eyed aspirations to places like Wall Street, Silicon Valley, Austin, and beyond. In speaking with entrepreneurs, and after years of feedback from an old Under30CEO article (5 Business Lessons I Wish I Knew When I Graduated), a new tip has started to emerge.

“I wish I would have networked more.”

Think about some of the internships you may be in now, or took part in when you were younger, and the people that invest in internships. You’ll have a mix of rising young superstars that may stick you on coffee duty, but will later become the managers or executives tomorrow. You may have a hustling internship at a startup that you think will never make it, but you are helping someone pursue their dreams. In both cases, the work will teach you a lot, but the networking will be more valuable.

The people around you have experiences and connections that you can learn from, even if you don’t think they are good to know today, everyone has something that they can share that you don’t yet know.

Here are a few quick ideas that I’ve had shared by others that helped their interns network more and learn more along the way:

  • Spend an afternoon with an assistant (to the CEO, or any other busy manager) and they’ll likely be able to teach you about habits that lead to success, maybe a few Excel tips and tricks, or other ways to make your day more efficient.
  • Work in finance? Chat with the development team that is in a separate wing to learn more about bank security and technology trends of the future.
  • Working in a tech startup? Learn the ins and outs of customer support and the challenges they see on a daily basis. Immerse yourself with others in the industry as a whole.
  • See where your friends are interning and ask if you can meet with someone they have found interesting. See if you can’t do the same for a friend at the company you are interning at.
  • Are you a developer? Try to understand how the sales and marketing team functions. Perhaps there are business opportunities that can be shared between both sides and technologies that they may not realize could solve their pain points.
  • Never eat alone. Okay, this can be hard in places where everyone may eat at their desk, but don’t be shy and regardless of who you see heading out in a group to lunch, try to join them.

As you hit the halfway point in your Summer, realize that the happy hours aren’t just opportunities to drink free booze. They are opportunities to meet people, learn about what they do, and perhaps even down the line, you’ll be able to return the favor to someone for something they shared or taught you.

Are you hosting an intern this Summer? Think of where you were when you were their age and what you wish you knew going into your first job. See how you can help them get the most out of their time at your company.


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