If you landed a job as an intern – congrats! Internships are an excellent way to jumpstart your career.
Not only can you gain hands-on experience in your field of interest, but you’ll also get a chance to grow your professional network and build your resume. Better yet, 37% of interns end up getting hired full-time by the organization.
With such an important opportunity to build your livelihood, you’ll want to do a stellar job. Here are seven tips to help you rock your internship!
1. Research before starting
You’ve done the initial research to get the internship – great job! Now take it a step further. Try to learn anything you can about the line of work, company background, leaders and even industry jargon and insider terms. Knowing what all those acronyms mean can come in handy. Check out the latest industry news, blogs or trade magazines and look up definitions as you go. It might even be a good idea to ask your internship supervisor if there are specific materials you can review prior to getting started.
2. Communicate and network
You may feel nervous about being a rookie in a new workplace. Don’t use that as an excuse to be a wall flower! Get in there and communicate, ask questions and build relationships. Show your colleagues that you’re interested in them and motivated to learn. Start conversations by asking about the business or the industry news you’ve been reading. You’re there to learn, so open conversations with the spirit of inquiry.
Build as many relationships as possible and be sure to add your new colleagues to your professional networks, like LinkedIn. Breaking into a new industry can be more about who you know than what you know, so meet as many people as possible. When it comes time to find a full-time job, you’ll have that much more support.
3. Show initiative
Volunteer for as many projects as you can and show your eagerness to help out. Don’t overextend yourself too much, but definitely look for ways to demonstrate that you have the passion and motivation to succeed. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification on your assignments or request feedback about your performance. This shows a willingness to reflect on your work and make the changes necessary to succeed. Remember, your internship is an opportunity to prove your capabilities. Be a go-getter while you’re there!
4. Be Punctual
Don Marquis famously said, “Punctuality is one of the cardinal business virtues.” You may be a busy student with lots of personal obligations just trying to fit in an internship. Remember though, you’re building your professional reputation. Being on time is huge. This is how others will interpret your dedication, commitment, self-discipline, organizational skills, time management skills, credibility and other key markers of professionality. Being on time seems like an easy task – but don’t take it for granted! Plan ahead, stay mindful, complete assignments by their deadline and—most of all—show up on time.
5. Look professional
Dress codes can vary widely by workplace. Even if your internship is in an environment where people show up in sweats and sneakers, avoid the urge to be as casual. It’s better to err on the side of overdressed rather than underdressed—even if it’s just for Zoom meetings. Appropriate etiquette is a sign of common courtesy and respect, especially for newcomers. A professional wardrobe can get you farther than you realize. If you have to buy a few new outfits, it’ll be worth the cost down the road as you enter your field as a professional.
6. Temper expectations
Expectations can be a tricky thing when you’re first entering a profession. You may have one idea of what your industry or role as an intern will be like, then get there and it’s completely different. Or maybe the supervisor only gives you mundane tasks. We’ve all heard horror stories of interns being treated like errand runners or coffee fetchers. Try to stay humble and flexible. Remember that even if you don’t gain a ton of knowledge, you’ll still be making important connections and getting a foot in the door. This can be worth just as much—if not more—than learning about your profession in a classroom setting.
7. Say thank you
It can be hard to stay thankful when you’re doing unpaid work. Try to keep in mind that the organization is also putting in the effort to take on someone with little experience. Interns can be a sink on their resources and time, so be sure to remain grateful for the opportunity. After your internship, it’s an excellent idea to send a handwritten thank you card to anyone who assisted or influenced you. Gestures of gratitude can go a long way in building lasting professional relationships. Ultimately, it can lead to an opportunity when a new position opens up and you’re remembered for your graciousness.