As internship season approaches, we thought we’d share insights from employers. So what do they expect from their interns? Based on feedback from a variety of organizations, we’ve come up with 20 tips students should follow to ensure a successful internship.
1. Do your homework. Show up the first day of the internship armed with information. Learn about the company and all those who work there. This will show initiative and your eagerness to learn as much as possible.
2. Dress the part. Ask about the organization’s dress code preferences. Dressing the part demonstrates to others that you respect the company culture. If you look the part, you’ll feel the part, and others will see you that way too.
3. Be punctual. Show your enthusiasm and willingness to work by arriving five to ten minutes early (to work, meetings, or other events). If you will be late or out, contact your supervisor using his or her preferred communication method.
4. Make a good first (and last) impression. Smile, introduce yourself, and make eye contact. Remember names.
5. Put your cell phone away. Turn it on silent (not vibration) or OFF. Use your phone privately only on a scheduled break or in an emergency.
6. Be respectful. Behave respectfully toward everyone, regardless of their position. Be mindful of a person’s workspace and personal space. Remember your place. Be a part of the team, but realize you are there to take direction from others.
7. Use manners. Always. Please, thank you, excuse me, you’re welcome, I’d be happy to help.
8. Treat the internship as if it were a real job. Being a temporary (and unpaid) employee is not license to slack off or be lackadaisical. This is an opportunity to gain experiences that will follow you to the next internship or full-time job.
9. Be flexible. The people that make up an organization have varied working styles. If you are interacting with many people, you may have to adapt to each kind of working style to be successful.
10. Stay organized. Practice time management. Plan. Write everything down. Keeping a written record of tasks and other important information (such as advice you may receive from a mentor) will ensure you make fewer mistakes.
11. Handle sensitive issues privately. If you feel uncomfortable about an assignment, task, or co-worker, privately speak about it with your immediate supervisor and address the issue.
12. Take initiative. Be available; volunteer for tasks; speak up and ask questions—and be tactful in your approach. Give 100% (or more) if you can. If you finish an assignment, let your supervisor know and ask what else you can do to help.
13. Accept Feedback and Learn. Ask for feedback and accept critiques. Be appreciative that someone with years of experience has something valuable to offer. Don’t take criticism personally. Try to use feedback and critiques as a learning experience to do better the next time.
14. Be quick to listen and slow to speak. Be mindful when others speaking, and do not interrupt. Wait for an opening to ask questions or offer feedback.
15. Ask questions! Show enthusiasm. Ask thoughtful questions at the right time. If you are unclear about a task or assignment, ask your supervisor to clarify it.
16. Be an observer. Watch what’s going on around you in the workplace, and take mental notes. Avoid energy suckers or people who trash talk others. Find the positive and adapt to the culture.
17. Keep talk about business. It’s fine to get to know your colleagues, but avoid asking personal questions. Keep the filter on. Don’t waste others’ time with mindless chatter.
18. Be willing to go outside of your comfort zone. Take on a new assignment. Be willing to do less than glamorous or mundane tasks.
19. Track your accomplishments. What did you do well? Keep track of your successes and accomplishments. Write your successes down and refer to them later when you update your resume or interview for another position.
20. Work hard! Establish a reputation for being a hard worker—that is something people will always remember!