alarm-clock-computerYou just checked your inbox and there was good news waiting: you got the internship at your top choice company. The first order of business is to celebrate. You beat out other candidates for the spot and all your hard work has paid off. So go ahead, brush your shoulders off a little. Once the excitement sinks in, it’s time to start thinking about how you’re going to get the most out of your summer in the ‘real world’.

When I started my co-op with HubSpot's engineering team four months ago, I knew I wanted to sharpen my development skills but I quickly realized that this goal only scratched the surface. There’s way more to interning than stacking your resume with bullet points. You want to leave a company having gained new perspectives, experiences, and connections. The problem is, internships are temporary and guaranteed to fly by. Before you know it, next semester will be starting soon, and you don’t want to be wishing you had grabbed coffee with that Tech Lead or gone the extra mile on that one project.

That’s why it’s important to be proactive. Your manager or mentor will be a huge help, but it’s up to you to get outside your comfort zone. I’m hoping some of the things I’ve learned along the way here at HubSpot will help you squeeze everything you can out of your internship.

1. Make Time for Extracurriculars at Work, Too

There are so many ways to develop and learn during an internship beyond your day-to-day projects. A lot of companies host activities, workshops, or classes for employees to do something out of the ordinary from time to time. Just because you’re not a full-time employee (yet!) doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of perks like this. HubSpot, for example, has weekly Tech Talks on everything from building Chrome Extensions to writing microcopy and a monthly Science Fair where Product Managers get to demo what their teams are working on. Anybody can go to hear what co-workers are up to and see how other parts of the product work.

Stay up to date with what’s going on in your product or engineering organization and get it on your calendar. These are just a few examples, and the company you’re working for is bound to have similar opportunities so seek them out to fill your brain with anything and everything.

2. Don’t Leave Networking at School

There’s a ton of emphasis at school on networking and how important it is for finding an internship or job. But that doesn’t mean you should take your foot off the gas on making new connections once you’re in the ‘real world’. When you settle in at your company, start meeting as many people as you can. Your co-workers are great resources for learning about various parts of the business, hearing different perspectives, and learning something completely new. The right conversations with the right people can sometimes teach you as much as a class or lecture. 

I think most engineers would agree that networking sounds pretty daunting. But I’ve realized it’s actually a lot less scary when you’re an intern because you already have something in common with the person you’re meeting: you work at the same company. Conversations don’t feel as forced as they might at networking events in school because you’re already on the same page with your co-workers. Ask your manager or mentor who you should get to know better, reach out to someone who’s leading a project you’re interested in, or grab lunch with someone from a different team each week. You might make valuable connections, and you’re guaranteed to soak up some new insight.

3. Make This Your Longest First Impression

Instead of thinking of your internship on a 3 or 6-month timeline, approach it like a first impression. If you’re meeting your friends’ parents for the first time, you’re probably going to wear a nice outfit, be politer than usual, and generally be on your best behavior. Internships aren’t all that different, except making a good first impression with your company takes a lot more work than putting on a clean shirt.

What can you do outside your area of responsibility to improve the way you or your team works? What challenges can you identify, and what solutions have you brainstormed? Is there a project outside of your day-to-day tasks that could use your skills? Your goal shouldn’t be to meet the minimum or check off all your boxes; it should be to go above and beyond. At HubSpot, the projects I work on are only a small percentage of the hundreds of applications we have in our GitHub environment. As an intern, you have the ability to navigate these other projects and contribute, whether they are related to your team’s work or not. Commenting and providing suggestions to other pull requests can go a long way, and you’ll undoubtedly learn a lot, too. Leaving that kind of impression will make a world of difference when your manager is considering making you a full-time offer or when they’re asking your co-workers for feedback on your performance. 

4. Stop and Enjoy the View

I think a lot of interns worry so much about being professional and nailing that first impression that they don’t let themselves enjoy the perks a company or team has to offer. Working hard is important, don’t get me wrong, but so is striking a balance. No one’s going to think you aren’t taking your internship seriously because you went to company trivia night, took advantage of the on-site cooking class last week, or joined the Panini Club (a HubSpot favorite). There’s a lot to soak up at work besides work, and internships are a great time to get your hands dirty with everything.

And, that goes beyond the office. If you’re interning in a city that’s new to you, like Boston is for me, get out there and explore. I’m lucky to have a group of fellow interns and co-ops here that are always up to get some good eats, go to a concert, or check out the city with me. Most co-workers will be more than happy to show you their favorite spots, or at least point you in the right direction. Just don’t be afraid to ask.

5. Take Cultural Cues

Culture fit is one of the most important factors in finding the right place to work. In fact, more and more people are starting to value culture over compensation. Some companies capture their culture through content like HubSpot's Culture Code or Netflix's culture deck, but it’s not always easy to gauge what a work environment is really like from the outside. That’s why internships are a great opportunity to size up what kind of culture aligns with your style, values, and work ethic. Having a better grasp on the type of workplace you thrive in will help a ton when you’re looking for your first real job out of school.

A couple things to ask yourself throughout your internship are: How are teams organized? What values and missions are embodied? How do employees interact and collaborate with each other? Are policies and guidelines a match? Depending on the company, these answers will differ immensely so it’s important to give some thought to which aspects of the culture you like and which you don’t. That way, when you’re interviewing in the future, you can ask concrete questions about what to expect and find the most compatable company for you.

Ultimately, internships are a fantastic opportunity to apply what you’ve learned, get exposed to new perspectives, and make valuable connections. But before you know it, you’ll be back at school so it’s important to make every day count and soak as much up as you can.

Interested in an internship opportunity at HubSpot? Check us out!

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