Landing a great internship can be one of the biggest accomplishments of your college career. In fact, if you play those cards right, it could lead to your first paying job in your field straight out of college. However, there’s no guarantee at any internship that you’ll walk away with a job – or even a good reference – at the end of that short-lived semester shadowing the people you hope to be someday soon. Lean into this valuable opportunity and do everything in your power to impress the best in the biz. Read on for a few things you can do to win that coveted “best intern” title and make the most out of your internship this semester.
- Know the Players
Chances are you’ve already researched the company you’re interning with during the interview stage, but it couldn’t hurt to do a deep dive on the people you’ll be working under as well. Check the company’s social media page and try to match faces to names and titles so that you’ll know whom you’re asking to hold the elevator in the morning (and if you should just opt to take the next one). It will also help you narrow down which executives you’d like to learn from and possibly request to shadow during your experience.
- Dress for Success
Ripped jeans and a sassy T-shirt may be your dress code of choice for that early morning Friday class, but when it comes to dressing for success at your internship, stylish yet professional attire is best. No one is expecting you to show up to your unpaid internship wearing a designer pantsuit, but you should do your best to dress appropriately for the office at which you work. Putting effort into your office wardrobe will show your co-workers that you take your position as an intern seriously – even if you are spending most of your day making copies and doing coffee runs. Asking about the office dress code before your first day is never a mistake. Neither is sticking to it – even if no one else in the office does.
- It’s Not Just a Class Requirement – It’s a Job
If you’re not getting compensated with cold hard cash in exchange for your hard work and budding expertise that doesn’t mean this internship is any less of a paying job. The truth of the matter is, if your position weren’t valued at the company, then it wouldn’t be a position in the first place – period. It may not always seem like it, but as an intern, you are an integral part of the office and people all the way up the chain are counting on you to carry out assignments, meet deadlines and bring your all to the table every day. Do your best work and it won’t go unnoticed – and it will probably even get rewarded with cooler assignments and valuable opportunities within the company.
- Be on Time – Which Really Means Be Early
Being late to any job is frowned upon but being late as an intern (outside of reason) is grounds for termination and ultimately denial of a class credit. Do your best to clock in a few minutes early to get yourself settled and say your ‘hellos’ before diving into the thick of things. Just like people notice when you’re late, they also notice when you’re there early putting in extra time, doing your best to be a true asset to the workflow of the office. And, while we’re at it, don’t be so eager to clock out when the proverbial whistle blows. Allow for the possibility of staying late on occasion to get that day’s assignments finished. After all, it’s never too early to show off your exceptional work ethic.
- Socialize (To a Degree)
Aside from learning the ins and outs of your chosen profession, an internship is a great way to start building a valuable network of connections that can help you exceed in your career. Get to know your co-workers at the company – fellow interns included – and do your best to forge a relationship with as many people as possible. Strike up conversations with assistants and managers in the department (without distracting them from their duties, of course) and don’t be afraid to ask them questions about the job. It’s only a matter of time before you’re in their shoes, and it doesn’t hurt to know the scoop about what you’re striving for. Just remember to keep any tendency to overshare in check. You may be friendly with your co-workers, but it’s still a place of business and, therefore, best to keep any truly personal details about your life to yourself.
- Come to Work with a Smile
As an intern, a large part of your daily job will be mundane office tasks and gopher-esque errands regular employees just don’t have time (or want) to handle. You may see the value in learning how to run color-coded copies for the morning meeting or you may not, but regardless of how you feel about your assigned tasks, you should check your negativity at the door. Nobody loves being at the bottom of the totem pole, but if you can manage to get through your to-do list with a positive attitude, then people will be grateful to have you around – and will be more apt to throw you the fun assignments as a thank you for your time and effort.
- Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions
The point of every internship is to get hands-on learning about your studied profession that you couldn’t get in a classroom. But, just because you’re not in the classroom doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask questions. Your internship is a valuable experience you can use to get all of your questions about what it’s “really like to work in this field” answered from the people that are in the thick of it. When formulating questions to ask your intern supervisor or other employees at your internship, do your best to make them specific and relevant to your interests. They are devoting valuable time from their workday to answer your questions and would appreciate hearing questions they can concretely answer as opposed to something vague and open-ended like “do you like what you do?”
- Keep in Touch
The people you meet through your internship can become great assets throughout your career and especially when landing that first job out of college. At the end of your internship, take stock of any employees you’d like to stay in touch with and ask them if it would be OK if you kept in touch. They may give you their personal email, or they might prefer to keep your contact limited to social media, but either way, you’ll have someone you can send your resume to when you’re ready to start the job search.
Make your internship work for you and put these eight tips into practice to ensure you make the most out of this valuable, real-world experience.
Simone S. is the manager for the Red Dress Boutique editorial team. She oversees all of the content and marketing for the company. When she’s not working or writing you can find her researching the latest fashion trends or hanging out with friends.