Like many college students around the country, your summer internship has either already started or is about to get underway. You have presumably had jobs in the past, but this is your first real opportunity to see what a career in your chosen field is actually like. This will not be like your ten hours per week bagging groceries in high school, nor should you treat it as such.
It’s important you remember to think of this less as an audition and more as a learning opportunity. Your boss isn’t expecting you to come in and know everything from day one. Instead, they’re looking for someone reliable, helpful, and hard-working. Even if you don’t bring anything else to the table, those three traits will serve you well over the next few months.
If you want to stand out and make the most of your internship, however, here are a few other things you’ll want to make sure you’re doing on a regular basis.
There’s no better way to shoot yourself in the foot as an intern than to be late on a regular basis. It’s off-putting enough when a full-time employee isn’t punctual. Think about how it looks to your boss(es) and co-workers when you get there late, especially if you’re only part-time. You can’t learn what you need to know if you’re consistently missing out on things because of your own doing.
Always have a pen and paper with you
As an intern, you’re not likely to be an integral part of any one project or meeting. But still, you’re there to help as much as you can, and being a diligent note-taker is a great way to benefit your team. Those notes aren’t only helpful for remembering what one of your co-workers said during a random meeting, however. They’re also something for you to look back on once your internship is over. Trying to remember that technique you were taught, or how that one process worked? Well, good thing you wrote it down.
Ask questions and listen more than you talk
Again, you’re there to learn, more than anything else, and the people around you know this. You’re probably not the first intern to walk through their doors, so don’t be afraid to be curious. Your bosses and co-workers have much more experience than you do. Especially if this is the field you want to pursue after graduation, this is a golden opportunity to learn from experts. Most people will be more than happy to answer your questions as long as you aren’t constantly interrupting them. Take advantage.
Although your internship will help you learn the ins and outs of the company and industry you are working in, it will also help you to get to know experienced people in your field. These are people you can turn to for advice in the moment and use as professional references when the time comes for you to submit applications for real jobs. Introduce yourself to as many people as you can – you never know who will be able to help you down the road. As the saying goes, it’s less about what you know than who you know.
Make a great first impression and leave on a high note
The two most important days of your internship are your first and last. On day one, make sure you are early (not just on-time), well-prepared, and dressed a little nicer than you think you should be. Introduce yourself, look people in the eye and shake hands. It’s simple stuff, but simple stuff is what makes a strong first impression. If you establish yourself as a person worth taking seriously from day one, the rest of your summer should be smooth sailing. Likewise, do the same on the day you leave. By then, you’ll have established some relationships and will have a better sense of who you’ll look to for help in the future. Single those people out in particular and say thank you. They’ll appreciate it and remember you fondly.