You’ve landed your dream internship — but how can you be a great intern and leave a lasting impression? While having an internship or two under your belt will certainly impress admissions officers, it’s far more important to impress the people you’ll be working with (who may be writing your recommendation letters), and to gain valuable work experience. Here are a few steps you can take to reap the maximum benefits from your internship.
1. Arrive early—but not too early
The higher up the corporate ladder you are, the more acceptable it is to show up late or just barely on time. But as an intern, it’s never okay to be late – or barely on time – to work. Plan ahead for your first day at the office, mapping your route and making sure to make allowances for any traffic or potential public transit hiccups. Plan to be in the neighborhood half an hour early–but if you actually get there that early, get some breakfast or walk around the block a few times. Don’t make anyone feel like they’re keeping you waiting — don’t show up to the office more than ten minutes early, to group meetings more than five minutes early, or to one-on-ones more than a few minutes early.
2. Take notes
Carry a pen and notebook with you at all times. It’s much better to write down too much or ask for clarification in the moment than to have to follow up hours later when you realize you didn’t understand the assignment. Plus, keeping a detailed log of the tasks and assignments you complete will be helpful not only for your résumé but also when asking your supervisor for a letter of recommendation later on.
3. Network by asking for advice
Networking can be extremely intimidating, awkward, and anxiety-inducing. The trick is, people hate being asked for help, but they love being asked for advice — and they tend to end up offering help to those who ask for advice. Find someone you find interesting and want to know more about (it could even be a fellow intern!) and tell them that you admire the work they do and would love to learn how they got started, then ask if they have time for a brief coffee meeting or if you could drop by their office.
4. Pay attention to office norms
Regardless of how much information you were given prior to beginning the internship, the only way to really understand office norms and culture is to observe once you start. For example, do people dress very formally, or more casually? (Dress slightly more formally than your supervisors — if they wear t-shirts, maybe wear a polo.) Do people eat lunch around the same time? Do they leave or eat at their desks? Do people wear headphones when they work? Do they greet and sign off on every email, or just the first in a chain? Paying attention to these details will help you get acclimated and keep your internship running smoothly.
5. Write thank you notes
This is the number one most important thing you can do in order to make a good impression. Thank-you notes can be short, and sent via email — the most important thing is to send them quickly, within a day of the meeting, lecture, interview, or end of the internship. Thank your supervisor and anyone else who you worked with closely. These people spent a lot of time and effort mentoring you, and a sincere note can leave an even more lasting impression than any of the work you actually completed during the internship.