I have worked closely mentoring and supervising software engineering interns for the past 1+ years.
The most common reasons I’ve heard for doing an internship are things such as, to learn new technologies, to get industry exposure on how to work with clients and teams, to earn, as a mandatory part of their degree curriculum — to name a few.
Here are my thoughts on what you should focus on during your internship:
Identify your passion — Know who you are, what you like
I would rate this as the most important aspect of an internship. Most of the time you get into an internship based on the subject area you are majoring in your undergraduate programme, i.e. if you are doing a degree in Computer Science, it is likely you will choose Software Engineering for your internship. While being exposed to your chosen career path, you will be able to identify your strengths, weaknesses, likes, dislikes towards the career by this. Make the internship an opportunity to learn about yourself. Maybe software engineering might not be your field of interest, it could be business analysis or something else.
BTW, never worry if you figure out that your interest is in a completely different area.
Educate yourself — Learn, Learn, Learn
An internship would be a great opportunity for you to learn. It is not about completing tasks on time by getting a lot of help from others; it is always about working hard and learning. Appreciate the professional feedback that you get and continuously improve yourself.
By following standards/ guidelines in your project team, following company ground rules etc. you will learn to follow defined processes.
By going to work on time, attending meetings on time you will be able to make yourself disciplined.
You can’t always say I couldn’t complete this on time. So, you will need to learn how to complete your work assignments within the estimated/allocated time. Also, you will be able to provide more accurate estimations for tasks assigned to you.
You will get to improve your communication skills when engaging with daily activities. You will learn how to express your opinions and key points, how to explain a work-related matter to another and so on.
You will be able to improve your understandings towards theoretical concepts and you will get to use new technologies with a better understanding.
Create Connections — Make new friends; expand your professional network
This is another good thing about internships. Use the 3–12 months of time to build up long lasting connections within and outside your team with interesting individuals. These connections would be helpful for you to get future recommendations, to know about job openings etc.
Get noticed! Have the right attitude — be flexible and adapt. Make sure you contribute your maximum during the internship period. You might be identified as a future prospective employee or you could get a direct transition to full-time employment after the internship period based on your performance.
When entering the job market as a fresh graduate, having an internship would make your resume stronger than others’ who haven’t done an internship.
Anyway, never do an internship just for the perks of it.
Get the true value of your internship and make it an incredible experience that you will cherish forever.