Whether this is your first internship or your fifth, you want to stand out from the crowd and make the best impression possible. Use these tips to get the most out of your internship and make sure your supervisors and colleagues know your value — without being the intern who’s always jumping around going “look at me!” (We’ve worked with that intern. Nobody liked her.)
1. Act Professional. This seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many interns behave as if their jobs were extensions of the college courses they slept through. They arrive late. They wear spaghetti-strap tops, wrinkled polos and open-toed shoes. They spend all day chatting on Facebook and then ask if they can leave early.
If you want to be a professional — and that’s why you have this internship, right? — you have to act professionally. That means investing in a professional wardrobe, arriving on time, performing your tasks and not asking to get out of work.
3. Be Helpful (But Not Annoying). Be the person who always washes the dishes in the break room sink, always adds new paper to the copy machine and never gets a cup of coffee without asking if anyone else wants one. If someone needs help navigating PowerPoint or proofreading a document, offer your services.
However, don’t be so helpful that you become annoying. If you’re always bothering people about coffee or asking your supervisor “can I help you with anything?” you’ll wear on people’s nerves. It’s better if your office just sees you getting things done.
4. Keep Your Mouth Shut. No one needs to hear about the way you did things at your last internship or in your college business class. You are there to learn, not the other way around.
Also: never gossip about other interns, other colleagues or your bosses. Yes, sometimes it builds camaraderie to make jokes about a shared supervisor, but there’s a line between “all in fun” and “being mean.” You know where the line is, and don’t cross it.
5. Don’t Make it About You. Yes, you are taking this internship to benefit your career. However, that doesn’t mean the internship is about you. There’s a difference.
You benefit your career by working hard, observing how other people get things done and learning everything you can about your chosen industry. You make the internship about you by constantly asking when you’re going to get more work, bugging people for feedback on every little thing you do and whining about how this job isn’t teaching you what you want to learn.
Even if you’re stuck in a windowless room stuffing envelopes — and all interns get stuck there at least once — you’re still learning something. What types of people are on the company mailing list? How can you best manage a collating and mailing project with the fewest number of trips around the filing table? How do you pace yourself during a long workweek?
These are all skills that will benefit you in the future — if you make your internship about learning and not about you.