It’s the first day of your internship and you are dressed in the outfit you picked out three weeks ago. Directions in one hand and a coffee in the other, you are ready to jump right in. As long as you follow directions and do the work assigned, you can be a good intern and walk away with an addition to your resume, some experience and a letter of recommendation. But as a senior walking in to my third internship, I have compiled a handy list of ways to stand out to your supervisor and make the most of your intern experience.
Dress for the job you want
My mother always told me, “It’s better to be overdressed than underdressed.” Remember that you are in a professional environment and that your supervisor and staff will likely become potential employers, or at the very least recommend you for a job. The harsh truth is that you are judged first and foremost by your image. You want your outfit to say that you are professional, dependable and ready to work. Plus, how your dress determines how you feel – if you look good, you feel good.
Learn from your staff
For the most part, you will be working directly with one or two supervisors, but there are numerous other professionals working around you. Get to know the staff. They have years of experience and can give perspective on different positions in the office. It also shows that you are personable and self-sufficient.
Even the other interns you work with are great sources of information. Ask them where they have interned, what classes they’ve taken and what activities they are involved with. Creating a working relationship with fellow interns can make the time go faster and also provide insight as to what your competition is.
Use downtime effectively
Because your supervisor is busy doing their own job, they will not always have time to assign you assignments. This does not mean you have an excuse to check into your Facebook account. The last thing you want is for your supervisor to come over and for you to be slacking off on your computer. Always try and ask your supervisor if there is something you can do to help. If not, try to do something relevant to the job you’re doing. Read the news or check in on related Web sites. Research your own company or competitors. You will be able to impress your employer when you can have a discussion about current industry issues or developments. Remember that your supervisor or another employee could walk over at any moment and you want to be able to justify what you were doing.
Be ready for anything
As an intern, you are always trying to make a great impression. This means being flexible and having a positive attitude. Whether your supervisor asks you to sort files or take the lead on a project, your reaction should be the same: big smile. You always have time, you’re always willing to help. Don’t make plans directly after work in case you need to stay later. When your supervisor needs someone reliable to do something bigger, you want to be the person they think of.
Take the next step
Keep in touch with the people in your office. Send a thank you note to your supervisor after you leave the internship. Keep the staff members informed about what you’re doing at school or send quick notes around the holidays. You want to maintain a relationship in hopes that they will help you in the future. You never know where there will be job openings and the best advice I can give is to not burn any bridges. Work until the very last day. The internship may be over, but the people you worked with are part of the industry and will be consulted for recommendations.
— By Marisa Kameno, Quinnipiac University