I’m currently participating in my fifth internship, so you could say I know a thing or two about what makes a good (or bad) experience. I’m obsessed with learning new things and internships are a great way to learn new skills and find out more about a company before diving right into a full-on position.

When searching for an internship, it’s important to ensure you’ll be getting the most out of your experience. You don’t want to show up on day one to realize you have been dubbed official ‘coffee runner’ or ‘copy machine expert’. Internships can be a pivotal part in deciding your future career, so here are a few things to look for in a beneficial internship:

1. What is the environment like?

Each company has it’s own unique company culture – maybe they’ve established a casual Friday or have an open door policy to encourage collaboration. No matter how much you love the service or product the company produces, if the company culture sucks, the chances are high you won’t enjoy your internship. This is one of the most important aspects for me because I know I flourish in an open, creative and collaborative environment.

What kind of environment do you prefer? Quiet and reserved? Goofy and collaborative?

Check out the website and social media pages to understand their voice and culture. You can also ask questions during the interview to get a feel for the environment. Request a tour of the office, this is a great way to gain insight on the company and possibly meet current employees.

2. Will you have a mentor?

Having a mentor throughout your time as an intern can be helpful as you adapt to the culture, learn new skills and work on projects. They can help you overcome obstacles and ensure you are having a beneficial experience. You can also use a mentor as a professional reference as you continue down your career path. If a mentor is not included in the internship, it never hurts to inquire. Ask whoever you’ll be working for if there is someone who would be willing to be a mentor. Suggest a way you can help them out in exchange for their time.

3. Will you be able to expand your skills and knowledge? 

Choose an internship program that invests in you and encourages you to learn new skills. One of the best parts about working for a startup has been learning every aspect of running a company – from marketing to coding to copywriting. Plus, we work from a coworking space that offers multiple classes and skill shares each week. Be sure to ask what opportunities the company has for personal development and upskilling.

4. Will your work have a direct impact on the company?

People want to feel like the work they’re doing actually matters. We want to know our work will have a direct impact on a person, the company or the even the world. If what we’re doing is pointless, that translates into the rest of our lives and we question our purpose. Your ideas should be considered and taken seriously during your internship.

5. Is there a possibility of future career opportunities?

Interning is a great way to see the ins and outs of how a company operates. If they are investing their time and energy into you, I would like to believe they would hire you if you work hard and if you are the right fit. This is usually something a company would state on the application or discuss in the interview. If not, bring it up. Determine whether you’d want to spend time with a company that potentially wouldn’t hire you on after the completion of an internship.

It’s no coincidence that Start Me Up offers internships with startups that check each of these items of the list. During my internship experience, I had a collaborative environment, an inspirational mentor, endless possibilities for upskilling, work that mattered and was taken seriously, and a possibility for a future career. If you’re interested in an internship with a startup abroad, get the application pack below.

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