Over the past summer I was lucky enough to land a mechanical engineering internship and I would like to share some helpful tid-bits that I learned while working there. The following post will outline some things that I did well or what I would have done differently.
Being proactive is the biggest thing that both my mentor and I wish I had done more of. In the “real world” your job isn’t perfectly outlined for you on some class syllabus and rarely is there ever only one correct answer. My internship required a lot individual and teamwork such as figuring out what questions to ask, figuring out whom to ask, and then asking them. During my evaluation my mentor said that it felt like I was always waiting to be told the next step. A common saying among professional engineers is “Nobody knows everything.” This means you have to seek out those know what you don’t know and ask them. I recommend putting a lot of focus into taking initiative when working as an intern. You’re going to make mistakes, and being proactive is what really defines you as an effective worker.
Building relationships with your co-workers is sometimes overlooked as important in an internship. During my internship I felt like I communicated well with a handful of people, but there were other people within arms reach that I hardly ever spoke to. I definitely wish I had talked to more people because you never know when networking will payoff. Your working personality and relationships play a huge role in your success as an employee. Even during an interview, a lot of employers are checking to see if you are someone they would like to talk to every day, five days a week.
LEARN FROM YOUR MISTAKES
Making the same mistake over and over can be incredibly frustrating to your supervisor. You should of course try to avoid mistakes whenever possible, but we’re all human so mistakes are bound to happen. When the same mistake happens again, there’s really no excuse. Learning from mistakes is something that I felt like I did fairly well during my internship. There were many times when I stumbled, but I always put a lot of effort into doing better the second time. I felt like this was recognized and appreciated by my supervisor. Not only will learning from your mistakes please your supervisor, it will also help you grow in your career. Both the successes and mishaps during my internship have made me much more prepared for my next experience.
Although these concepts may be fairly obvious to most people, I hope my experience has reminded you to keep them in mind whenever and wherever you work.