If you landed an internship this season, congratulations! Internships can be an exciting way to earn the experience you’ll need for a full-time job after graduation.
Having any prior experience on your resume is a great start, however, some internships are definitely more beneficial than others. Even if your current internship seems to be more about fetching the coffee than earning the real-world-know-how you were expecting, there’s still an excellent way to make the most of it: moonlighting.
Although commonly used in reference to a person who has one day-time job and one night-time job, moonlighting can also refer to the process of shadowing other employees within your company, typically by sitting in on meetings, brainstorming sessions, or projects.
Moonlighting in this form can be a very good way for you as an intern to gain exposure to projects and upper-level decision making processes to which you otherwise wouldn’t have access. It’s also likely that listening to these sessions will expose you to ideas of people with whom you might not ordinarily interact, making it all the easier for you to diversify your ideas and avoid the obstacle of group-think.
Some companies might encourage you to be an active participant in such settings while others will insist you may only observe, but either way, sitting in on meetings will help you get a clear picture of what goes on within your company, and if it’s the right fit for you later on. Either way, it doesn’t hurt to ask.
How to Ask
In just about any internship you’re going to have a supervisor or someone to whom you report directly. Approach that person and explain that you’d love the opportunity to peek in on what other departments are doing; point out how hard you work, that you won’t be a nuisance, and you’d be willing to sign an NDA if they’d like. Frame your request as a way to learn more, and show that none of your other duties will suffer when you take on this new charge.
If you don’t speak often with your coordinator, it’s also acceptable to ask someone else (who isn’t an intern) with whom you feel more comfortable. As Kit, a Hiring Expert at Textron Inc., explains, “Companies, for the most part, welcome opportunities to encourage and nurture passionate minds that want to learn more about their business… Demonstrate that you are committed to learning, be flexible and let them know are willing.”1
Moonlighting can turn even a not-great internship into a beneficial experience that can both strengthen your resume and help you to figure out if that company is somewhere you’d want to work long-term. Don’t be afraid to ask if you can moonlight; most companies want to teach you and hope you’ll succeed, so moonlighting really is beneficial to you both. And the worst that can happen is they say no - and if this happens, you still have an internship.