3 Ways to Make the Most of Your Internship in a New City
Landing an internship in a new city is one of the most exciting steps you’ll take as a college student. It’s a chance to gain real-world experience while getting a taste of true independence. Most important, a good internship positions you for bigger and better things after graduation.
Universities take this real-world preparation seriously. That’s why schools such as the University of Alabama at Birmingham made “intern-like” experiences mandatory. “We’re continually trying to understand what skills, knowledge, and abilities are necessary for entry-level into the business community,” said Eric P. Jack, dean of the Collat School of Business. “We’re trying to make sure students have the essential skill sets to be functional. Part of that process is for us to make sure all our students get internships.”
But once the high of winning a coveted internship wears off, stress and anxiety often take its place. Moving to a new city, finding a place to live, and getting your bearings can become overwhelming. And that’s before you’ve even started the actual internship. Ease the transition by cultivating comfort and community in your new city—all essential to success in the new job.
Creating a Home Away From Home
You’ll want to build a comfortable home environment before your internship begins. Plan ahead by securing reliable housing before you arrive in the new city. Start your search early, and vet potential roommates carefully. Look for short-term leases and sublets, and keep an eye out for furnished apartments to avoid having to buy or ship your furniture. A lot of property owners insist on one-year minimum leases, so it might take some time to find a suitable work-around.
After you’ve picked a place, pack familiar items that make the space feel like home. Sheets, blankets, and specialty food items add cozy touches that will bring you some much-needed peace of mind.
Once you’re settled, it’s time to expand outward and find the rhythm of the city. Grab coffee at the same shop every day, and try to set standing dinner plans with your roommate. Feeling at home will help to give you the stability necessary to focus on preparing for your internship.
Nailing the Internship Itself
Performing well in this new position can open doors to a variety of career opportunities. Suzanne Scott-Trammell, executive director of Career and Professional Development at UAB, said it best: “Gaining professional experience while still a student is essential for today’s job market, and an internship is the modern-day equivalent of an entry-level position.”
So how do you stand out during this all-important time? Use the following tips to make a lasting impression on your colleagues:
1. Volunteer on the weekends
This is a great way to give back to your new community during your internship. It’s also a fantastic résumé boost because it demonstrates your ability to balance work, community involvement, and socializing. Volunteering also helps you expand your network by meeting other interns and local professionals.
2. Be a social yes man
You don’t want to earn the stigma of being “teacher’s pet,” so don’t suck up or be inauthentic. But take advantage of opportunities to develop your new relationships. Whether it’s listening in on a sales call or joining your colleagues for happy hour, say yes to every offer that lets you get to know your co-workers better.
3. Network outside your department
Develop friendly rapport with people in different departments, and maintain a business curiosity with senior employees. This exposes you to other roles and puts you on the radar with influential people in the organization.
Ultimately, you want to become an indispensable part of the team. Organizations increasingly encourage interns to engage deeply, both with one another and with full-time employees. The American Center for Reproductive Medicine says this about its summer internship program: “Communication at different levels among the program attendees is highly valued. Constant updates with mentors and interaction with fellow interns improve the productivity of the interns and help to relieve any stress that may come with the workload.”
The stronger your interpersonal ties, the better your performance and overall satisfaction with the internship. By building stability in your home environment, you free yourself to perform well in your intern role as well. You’ll leave the experience with a stronger résumé, a bigger network, great references—and if you’re truly lucky, an offer of a full-time position.
David Adams is the founder of HomeSuite, an online marketplace for temporary furnished housing that uses technology, data, and customer service to provide the best possible experience for tenants and landlords. Connect with David on Twitter.