By Leila Lewis, CEO and founder of Be Inspired PR.

In a highly competitive job market, it's important to set yourself apart from the crowd though experience and skills. If you're a current college student, the best way to do this is through internships. Internships help you not only test out the waters and see if this is the career path you want to pursue, but they also to allow you gain abilities and knowledge that will boost your resume.

Most companies, my own included, hire their best interns for official positions post-internship, so it's crucial to stand out and do your best. I've mentored dozens of students over the years and can personally attest to how important internship experience is for one's career journey.

An internship can be as short as three months, so make sure you follow the tips below to maximize your experience.

Socialize

You want to break the ice as soon as you start your internship. Get to know your co-workers and supervisors; don't limit your work relationships to only your fellow interns. Start to learn who is responsible for what.

My team is on the smaller side, and we really strive to have a fun, yet productive work environment. A team that meshes well together is the most effective. Building relationships and gaining a sense of how the company works will make your transition into becoming a full-time employee easier, and will also help you find a mentor willing to invest in you.

Speak Up and Take Initiative

You may be an intern, but you were selected to be a part of the team because the employer saw something in you. Don't be afraid to speak up and take initiative. Learn the company's way of doing things, and if you see a more efficient method, let them know.

Most of the interns that I eventually hire are those who not only complete the work assigned to them, but bring new ideas to the table. When they figure out time-saving methods for more menial tasks and ask for more responsibility, I know that they possess the work ethic that our business thrives on.

Be Curious

Of course, make sure you complete what's been assigned to you, but if you see an aspect of the business that you're interested in learning more about, ask your supervisor if there's anything you can do to help.

There are many facets to the PR business, and the only way to figure out where you excel is by shadowing different leads. My team makes that really easy by introducing every intern to every employee, and outlining their roles.

You are there to learn and expand your knowledge, and asking for more responsibility or tasks will help you stand out.

Adapt ASAP

Dive into the culture of the work environment as soon as you can. The quicker you do so, the easier your work will be. Businesses run at a fast pace, and you'll want to keep up. I've had interns struggle to keep up with the speed of our work environment and in an effort to catch up, submit inaccurate work.

This spurs a lost of trust between the intern and lead, and forces the employee to double check the intern's work, which is a waste of time. As an intern, you're there to learn and help, but you don't want to negatively affect the work flow of the business. Be efficient, find your way around, and do good work.

Do Your Homework

Go the extra mile to learn more about the business and familiarize yourself with the company's upcoming projects, goals, etc. When interns pick up on the industry lingo quickly, I'm impressed.

Reviewing the client list or scrolling through our Instagram is just a quick and easy way to get those names in the back of your head. Internships are there to teach you and give you a sneak peek to help determine if that's the career path you want to take.

Take advantage of the potential skills you can gain while there and make the effort to network. You never know, it may even turn into a full-time job.

Leila Lewis created Be Inspired PR in 2007, the first full-service public relations agency dedicated to the wedding and special event industry.

Published on: Aug 24, 2016
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