If you are a college student, you’ve probably considering completing an internship. If you aren’t, you should. There is an abundance of evidence that an internship is perhaps the most important activity college students can complete outside the classroom to support their future career.
Here are 10 things you can do to help your internship reach its full potential:
- ASK QUESTIONS! I put this in all caps because it’s the most important thing you can do. Your supervisor doesn’t expect you to have all the answers – that’s why you’re interning. Spend more time soaking up as much information as you can and less trying to impress everyone in the office.
- But ask all of your questions at once. Don’t interrupt your supervisor 5 times each 4-hour shift. Write down your questions as they come up during your time in the office each day. Once you have a few on your list, ask your supervisor if he has a minute and get all of your answers at once. He’ll appreciate that you’re being considerate of his time.
- Ask to sit in on meetings. An internship is your chance to be exposed to high-level projects and thought-processes that students don’t typically get to be involved in. When your boos is prepping for a meeting, ask if you can listen. He may say no, but he’ll appreciate your eagerness to learn.
- Contribute original ideas. You’ll be expected to do this throughout your career, so go ahead and try it. The worst that will happen is your boss won’t like your idea. But if they do, you’ll earn yourself 10,000 brownie points.
- Be positive. You know how when you were a little kid and you picked on your little sister all the time but got mad when one of your friends did the same? It’s like that.Your supervisor may complain about her boss, or the company, but whatever you do – don’t join in.
- Don’t wait to be told what to do. Find something to do or ask how you can help. Too often I hear professionals say they could really use an intern, but don’t have the time to do the planning to keep them busy. Show your supervisor that you are there to help, not create one more thing for him to do.
- Show up and dress up. This seems obvious, but an internship is a job and should be treated as such. No one will believe your excuse and no one cares that you are sick. One absence will probably be tolerated; more than that and you’re going to raise some eyebrows. Your boss may tell you it’s okay to wear shorts and a t-shirt, but you can bet she will notice if you show up in business casual attire.
- Toot your own horn. At the end of every week, send your supervisor a quick email telling him what you accomplished that week and what you have planned for the next week. He is busy and may forget what you’re working on. Remind him.
- Finish the job. It’s frustrating to internship supervisors when interns leave projects unfinished when the semester is over. Don’t leave him with negative feelings about your performance at the end of the semester; he will always remember it.
- Stay in touch! At the end of your internship you’ve (hopefully!) nurtured a decent professional relationship with your boss. Don’t waste it! Connect with her on LinkedIn and send her an email every now and then to share news about grad school, internship or post-graduation plans. When the time comes to find a job, it helps to have strong, active relationships with professionals in the industry.
Why should you take my advice?
I manage a student communications agency, Pegasus Creative, at Oglethorpe University and supervise several college interns every semester. It has been a learning experience for everyone, as I work to find the balance between ensuring that my department gets the support it needs from our interns’ work, while also making sure the student has a rewarding experience.