While having an internship or two under your belt will certainly impress admissions officers, the real advantage here is that you have an opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse into an organization in a field you are passionate about. It’s a way to discover more insight into a potential future career path for you and figure out what you do and do not like. Congratulations for getting the internship in the first place! However, this might go without saying, but the real work is just getting started. Here are our top 10 tips for really standing out during your summer and thriving in your internship:
- Be prepared: It’s a good idea to plan ahead for your first day at the office. Pick out your outfit the night before and pack a lunch ahead of time. Map out how you will get to work in the morning, and be sure to make extra allowances for any traffic or potential public transit hiccups. Plan to get there 15-30 minutes prior to the time you and your supervisor agreed upon—but don’t try to get in the building until 10-15 minutes before. Don’t cut it closer than that, though—some office buildings have complicated security so it may take a while to get to the actual office from the time you walk through the doors. Showing up to work early and ready to get started goes a long way in starting off on the right foot. Being on time and prepared is not just for the first day of work, but for each day that you are on the job. It is one thing to make a great impression and it is another to maintain that impression over time so that you others can see your true character: that you are dependable, reliable, and hard working.
- Keep your phone out of sight: Our culture is constantly distracted by our mobile devices and the texts, calls, emails that constantly come our way. Unless your phone is needed during the day for your responsibilities, commit to keeping your phone in your bag or pocket until lunch or break time so that you can focus all of your energy on the task at hand and fully immerse yourself in your internship experience. If you have time to check your Instagram, then you have time to get your work done faster and ask your supervisor what more you can be helping with.
- Take pride in your presentation: Whether this is the way you dress each day, the quality of work you submit, or the email you write, remember that everything you put out in your workspace is a reflection of you. Always give and show your best.
- Get to know your coworkers: Get to know the people around the office whether they are peers and similar-aged interns or seniors and CEOs. Give a firm handshake, say hello and introduce yourself until the people you are surrounded by know your name by heart. Make eye contact and greet each person as you pass. If anyone asks you to lunch or invites you to set up a one-on-one meeting to get to know each other better, say yes. It’s easy to get intimidated by a new group of people, but stretching your comfort zone to build relationships with your coworkers can help make your working environment more collegial and enjoyable, and also give you a head start on the all-important task of networking. You never know what saying hello to that one unfamiliar face in the break room can do for your future.
- Find a mentor: Find a person in the office who you can lean on for feedback and guidance. This shows the people around you that you are eager to take initiative to improve in your role. Additionally, the feedback you receive can dramatically help you build on your strengths and focus on your areas of growth.
- Pay attention to company culture: Regardless of how much information you were given prior to beginning the internship, you won’t know much about the day-to-day of a job before you start. It’s important to be aware of office culture so that you can adjust your own expectations and behaviors accordingly. For example, do people dress very formally, or is the office attire more casual? Do coworkers generally eat with each other, or are lunch breaks taken independently? Paying attention to these details will help you get acclimated at your new internship more quickly. That being said, you should always try to be at least as formal as the most formal person, not as casual as the most casual!
- Be a sponge and eager to learn: Do not be afraid to ask questions. Soak in the wisdom and experience from the people around you. Sit in on as many calls and meetings are you are allowed to. Respectfully speak up if you want to take more initiative or have more responsibility. Advocate for your learning and your time there.
- Treat the internship like a first job: Be organized, stay on top of your work, and be transparent through the process of meeting deadlines you have. Exceed your expectations and do more of what is asked of you. Little things go a long way with showing that you are willing to go above and beyond.
- Keep a record: Bring a notepad and make sure to maintain a detailed log of all of the tasks and assignments you complete throughout the course of your internship. This will be helpful for your resume, but it could also come in handy if you hope to ask your supervisor for a letter of recommendation later on.
- Write thank you notes: After your summer on the job, it’s important to thank your supervisor and anyone else who you worked with closely. These people likely spent a lot of time and effort to mentor you, and so it’s proper form to acknowledge their role in providing you with such an awesome opportunity.
Learn more about the 4 most important things to do before leaving your internship from Christopher Rim’s article in Forbes.