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The One Key To A Successful Internship That No One Ever Remembers

InternsInternship season is in full swing, and across the land young people are preparing to spend their summers doing grunt work, paid or otherwise.

The purposes and promise of an internship are well-known. Hopefully, you’ll gain some valuable, real-world experience in an actual work environment. And of course, an internship is a golden opportunity to try to impress a real employer. The hope is your internship might turn into an actual job offer. To that end, the third thing a lot of people focus on during their internship is finding the right mentor who might further your career or become a life-long coach and sounding board.

But over the years I’ve worked with young professionals, I’ve seen one other really valuable aspect of a successful internship that a lot of people tend to overlook: the other interns.

If there is one bit of advice I’d give to anyone entering an internship this summer it would be to also pay attention to your fellow interns. Make friends with them. Keep in touch with them. Is there someone in your internship cohort that seems to be destined for bigger and better things? He or she might be more valuable to you in the long term than any mentor.

The reason why is quite simple: your fellow interns will be the people you will be crossing paths with again and again for the next 30 years of your career. Someone in the cubicle next to you might be a superstar CEO in 20 years time. Another might be a future competitor or vendor. The buddy you make during your internship might be the one who gets hired when the internship is over, and if you’re good buds, they might prevail upon the company to bring you along. But forget about the immediate future… if you keep in touch with your fellow interns over the years, as they rise through the ranks, you’d be surprised how often you can turn to this connection you’ve made to bring in a new client or land a new job when you need one.

In short, your fellow interns can be like an alumni community, but one that is focused specifically on your career field or industry. And one that you’ve built yourself.

I can’t tell you the number of times I hear clients say to me, “You know so-and-so who just got named the new partner at the firm I’d love to work for? I interned right along side her 8 years ago.”

There’s a reason why fraternities, academic societies and alumni networks exist: they’re about helping the next generation keep ties and keep touch and help each other get a leg up as they move into positions of power over the decades.

Your fellow interns can provide a similar sort of networking framework, but only if you recognize them as such, and take advantage of your shared connection.

So, as your internship begins, be sure to work hard. Learn as much as you can. Try to impress. Be on the lookout for who it’s most important to impress and position yourself accordingly.

But don’t forget to extend a hand and lend a hand to your fellow interns as well. Make connections with them and keep in touch. After all, you’re hoping to be much more than a lowly intern some day, and so are they. Odds are some of you are going to be right. So play the odds and make some connections that will pay dividends for your career for years to come.

This article was written by: Brian McCullough

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