By Claire Klieger Regardless of whether you’re in your dream internship or something that isn’t living up to your expectations, it’s important to create a positive impression. You want to leave a job with people wanting you back, no matter how glad you are to leave! Potential employers will often ask for references (even if your previous experience is completely unrelated) so you want to be able to provide them with a list of contacts that you know will speak highly of your job performance.
Last week I visited Lincoln Financial Field (and got to see the players’ locker room, which was really cool) to hear about opportunities for students with the Philadelphia Eagles. They have a post-graduate internship program where they hire 50 interns for a one-year program but only make permanent offers to a few. One staffer spoke about what sets people apart in that internship and how to get noticed. Here are some of his tips as well as my own: 1) Volunteer for any work that needs doing, no matter how menial or uninteresting. Whether it’s making copies, picking up mail or (as in the case of one intern at the Eagles), counting the number of toilets in your facility, be willing to do whatever is asked of you without complaint or grumbling. Simply saying “sure, I can do that” can make a big difference. 2) Understand the culture. Fitting into any working environment relies in large part on figuring out and participating in the culture. Take part in social activities provided by your organization to show that you are a team player and enthusiastic about your work. 3) Go the extra mile. It’s important to make the very best of whatever situation you’re in. If you don’t have enough to do, look around to figure out who could use help; then offer it. You never know who is going to be grateful for your offer to run a spreadsheet, or make a Powerpoint chart, summarize a set of articles, or run an experiment, etc. If you identify a need or see areas for potential improvement, you might gently offer an idea (and volunteer to do it) that might be useful. 4) Put in the time. One of the things the Eagles’ rep mentioned was that he notices interns who arrive early and stay late. Don’t create the impression that you’re checking your watch so that you can bolt out the door at 5 (or whenever the business day ends where you work). 5) Be professional. This is important for demeanor as well as dress. Also, be cognizant of your on-line communications. Keep your work emails professional and if you’re a blogger, don’t trash talk your employer or any individuals at your organization of employment specifically–you never know who may read these things and it is possible to get fired over it! 6) Treat everyone pleasantly, regardless of status. Focus less on becoming chummy with your fellow interns and more on being pleasant with everyone. This could be as simple as greeting people at the beginning and end of each day and remembering to smile. Also, be careful not to look like you’re only interested in making a good impression with the folks at the top.