How to Get the Most Out of a Short Internship

I’m currently in the last week of my software internship at Atomic Object. My time here has been shorter than most at Atomic. I settled on a short internship during the spring to accommodate a summer commitment. I’ve only been here for nine weeks, but I’ve already come to admire this company and its people, and this experience has been a valuable time of growth for me. The following actions helped me make the most of my time at Atomic despite that time being brief.

Take notes.

I cannot recommend this enough. The first impression I had of my project was that I had no idea what was going on. So, I listened and took notes. At first, I just jotted down words that I didn’t know so I could research them later. But soon, I started taking notes every day. This helped me keep track of what I was doing, what I had learned, and what to do next. Having a written record of my progress allowed me to easily identify the gaps in my knowledge and prepare good questions to help me fill those gaps. Plus, taking notes throughout the day kept me on task and helped me reflect on what I accomplished at the end of each day.

Be a “good pest.”

My team came up with this term for someone who asks for what they need to further their understanding. There is an inherent “pestering” part of being an intern. It is tricky not to feel like your questions create a burden for your team members. But, preparing and asking good questions can lessen the amount of guidance you need. Think of it this way: you’re teaching the team how best to help you. And by being more informed, you can ramp onto the project more quickly and easily. It is to everyone’s benefit that you ask questions.

Take opportunities.

My team was great about creating opportunities for me to have any experience I wanted to have within the project. But no one was forcing me to do these things — I had to be the one to say “yes.” I trusted that my team would guide me toward opportunities they felt I could tackle, and this idea was what helped me stave off impostor syndrome and take the plunge. During my internship, I had the opportunity to research a particular technology on my team’s behalf, write a technical recommendation, and present a demo to the client.

Come prepared.

Internships often come with lots of resources for professional development. As soon as you figure out what these are at an internship, the next step is to maximize the value you can get out of them. For example, Atomic provided me with dedicated career coaching sessions with my manager, which I could use however I saw fit. If possible, I liked to come to these meetings prepared with questions to ask or a topic I wanted to discuss. Being prepared allowed me to use the time more beneficially.

In terms of work, preparation is paramount as well. As I mentioned earlier, note-taking is a helpful tool to frame good questions and lay out the steps necessary to complete a task. This small bit of preparation can dramatically influence your clarity and focus when working. It will save time not only for you but also for your coworkers.

Talk to your coworkers.

My internship at Atomic has been my first workplace experience. I had read about the company’s pair lunch program before applying, so I was ecstatic to try it out. It worked — the prospect of free lunch led me to opportunities to ask my coworkers about their careers and to get to know them as people. Getting to know my coworkers allowed me to feel comfortable in the office more quickly and also provided me with valuable career insight. By the end of my tenure at Atomic, my schedule was packed with pair lunches so I could talk to and learn from as many Atoms as possible. Still, I missed so many people. Start early!

Onboard in-person (if possible).

I got more out of my internship working in person. But of course, this isn’t always possible, and some people find they work better remotely. Working at a place like Atomic that uses a flexible hybrid model, consider going into the office more frequently when you start. I was able to quickly gain an understanding of the project, my team’s dynamic, and the workplace culture. Being around your coworkers at the beginning of your experience can also help you transition to a remote or hybrid experience later. Once I was confident working on my own and asking for help, my work-from-home days became more productive. I was able to avoid feeling aimless or uncertain about my work.

Enjoy it.

Internships are short, even the normal-length ones. They go quickly once you get into a routine. It’s easy to lose sight of the big picture when you’re caught up in the daily grind of note-taking, pestering, and asking questions. Even though my time at Atomic was brief, I am happy with how much I accomplished and feel that it was a fun and rewarding experience. And that’s the most important part.