My Future

Why Your Mindset Is The Real Key To Nailing Your Internship

Every internship brings with it new people, new challenges, new coffee machines to battle, and new lessons.

While good grades or experience may have gotten you there, the most important tool in your kit is your mindset. Despite how it may feel, your distinctions aren’t going to determine your success, nor will your vast knowledge of Microsoft Outlook.

#1 Hard Skills Are… Hard

Hard skills are specific, teachable, measurable skills such as writing ability or proficiency with software. Uni helps develop some of these skills through assignments and exams, but no degree is going to teach you how to properly address an email according to specific style requirements, or how to format a report according to company standards.

Employers know this and don’t expect you to walk in and have an advanced knowledge of their document management systems. What they do expect you to do is take note of when they’re explaining it, and ask questions before you (maybe irreversibly) do something wrong.

Mindset is important here because style guides and IT training are usually the most ridiculously boring part of work – but the easiest to nail. Getting the hard, albeit boring, skills right the first time shows your willingness to learn and attention to detail.

#2 Play Up Your Soft Skills 

Soft skills are the opposite of hard skills. They’re the intangible, immeasurable skills like emotional intelligence and social dynamics. Unsurprisingly, your uni group projects don’t always adequately prepare you for this.

An internship demands professionalism mixed with respect, openness and self-expression. The truth is you’re never going to get along with absolutely everyone, and workplaces are filled with diversity. Being able to tailor your approach to different team members, knowing how to read a situation and remaining open comes down having a positive mindset.

Building working relationships can be a bit hit-and-miss. Staying too quiet so you don’t interrupt might be seen as shyness or reluctance to participate. Try too hard to establish good banter and you might be seen as unprofessional. It’s a new and weird dynamic, but always best to err on the side of caution.

#3 Know How To Mistakes

If I had a dollar for every mistake I made at an internship, I would gladly take that dollar because I’m currently in a volunteer gig.

But really, there will never be a time in your life when you aren’t capable of making mistakes (sorry, that’s a big lesson) and if you feel as though mistakes are impossible, you need to challenge yourself more.

The key to fixing mistakes is having an accepting, responsible mindset. Obviously, try to avoid mistakes BUT if/when they do happen there is an easy five-step plan:

  1. Identify exactly what the mistake is (be specific)
  2. Take responsibility
  3. Apologise once (no one likes a sob story)
  4. Fix it (learn how to)
  5. Don’t repeat it

#4 Paid Vs. Unpaid Work

It’s undeniable that your mindset will shift when it comes to paid vs. unpaid work. A tangible example is that in paid work, you should never be sitting on your phone checking Instagram. Unpaid is a little different though – if there’s a quiet moment or you’re waiting for an email back, it’s harmless to have a squiz.

In both positions, you should be working your hardest and avoiding mistakes, but the obligation to work over-time and come in on extra days is a little less.

So stay positive, take responsibility and build up your skill set! Also, the most useful hard skill you can learn is how to recall emails – an absolute lifesaver.

(Lead image: 30 Rock/NBC)