10 Ways to be a Successful Intern– Tips from a fellow student

Guest blog by Alex Glass, Class of 2012 (Psychology)

Alex Glass, Class of 2012

Over the last four years I have had the privilege of interning at three incredible companies, Amazon.com, www.allstardirectories.com and www.seniorhomes.com, and during that time I have learned some invaluable tips on how to be a successful intern. Here are some suggestions to help you make the most out of your internship.

1. Be Positive.  Tackle every project that your boss assigns you with a positive attitude and enthusiasm. It is not uncommon for interns to start out with grunt work (filing papers, entering data, getting coffee, etc.). The fact of the matter is this stuff needs to get done one way or another. It is not an easy task to wade through large amounts of tedious work with a positive and motivated mentality. However, if you patiently wade through the boring stuff and prove yourself to your boss, chances are more exciting and interesting projects will be sent your way.

2. Listen Carefully.  Without a doubt, the best way to learn and get things right the first time is to listen carefully to your boss.  Make sure to always have a notepad at the ready to capture every important detail. Not only will this make you more adept and proficient in doing your task, but when your boss comes to you a month and half later and asks you to do the same project, you will have all of the steps right there. In fact, it may be a good idea to keep an organizational guide of everything you do. You may be surprised at how beneficial it can be for the company, especially if they hire someone else to do your job after you leave.

3. Manage Your Time.  The obvious first step here is to get to work on time. Once you have that down you will likely need to prioritize, especially as the projects begin piling up. In many situations your to do list may be overwhelming. To make life easier, create a list of all your action items and decide which tasks need to be dealt with first. It will likely be useful to set up a weekly meeting with your boss to go over any important information and to provide updates on your work.

4. Don’t be Afraid to Speak Up. People always worry about asking dumb questions, and interns are no different. As it turns out, interns are expected to have tons of questions. Always remember that it is better to ask than not ask and make a mistake. In other words, a “dumb” question is always better than a “dumb” error. Keep in mind that your boss chose to hire you which means your boss wants to hear what you have to say. If your question or idea is great, excellent, if it’s not, learn why and move on.

5. Be Proactive. If you are sitting around twiddling your thumbs, stop. It is difficult but essential to be able to ask your boss for new work if you find yourself empty-handed.  An easy way to initiate this discussion is to tell your boss that you would like to take a second to make sure you are on the same page and doing everything correctly. The resulting discussion will likely get you the work you were looking for and it doesn’t hurt that it shows initiative as well. If you still find yourself with little to do, make an effort to learn as much you can through company files or search relevant articles and blogs for information.

6. Meet Your Coworkers. You will be spending a good amount of time at your internship, and nearly all of that time will be in the company of your coworkers. Make an effort to get to know them. Ask them questions about what they do at work, where they went to school, or anything else that comes to mind. Not only will this make your internship more enjoyable, but your coworkers will also be more willing to help you out when you run into any snags (which you inevitably will). Also, don’t forget about the networking opportunities.

7. Find a Mentor. One of the best ways to really learn your trade is to have a mentor to show you the ropes. A good mentor is typically either someone you are working with directly or someone in the same department you are in. Figuring stuff out on your own is great, but having someone who has been there before giving you suggestions will make the whole process much smoother. Sometimes a mentor will fall into place naturally, otherwise find someone with relevant experience who is willing to help you and form a relationship.

8. Work Hard. This may seem obvious, but it is much easier said than done. Working hard generates a cycle of positive benefits, beginning with the fact that it will impress your boss. This will encourage your boss to give you more responsibilities and bigger projects. And this will be incredibly beneficial, for not only will you feel more accomplished, but when you finish your internship and ask your boss for a reference letter you will likely get great results. Who knows, maybe you will even get asked to come back next year.

9. Remember why you are there. Maybe your parents made you, maybe you needed the money, but in the long run you are in it for the experience. It is increasingly difficult to get an internship and if you are one of the lucky few to get hired, make the most of it. Try to learn as much as you possibly can, not only about the department you are working in but about the entire company and even the industry as a whole.  Make an effort to truly understand what you are doing and how it affects the entire company.

10. Stay in Touch. Once you finish your internship, there is still work to do. Make a genuine effort to keep contact with your boss and/or your coworkers. Shoot them an email asking how the project you were working on is doing or how things are going in general. Don’t be hesitant to provide an update on your whereabouts either. The people you worked with provide an incredible opportunity for references, networking, and even future jobs.

Author: Kelly

Kelly Cleary is the Senior Associate Director of Career Services for College of Arts & Sciences undergraduates.

1 thought on “10 Ways to be a Successful Intern– Tips from a fellow student”

  1. Alex, Thanks so much for sharing such a mature, thoughtful perspective on making the most of a summer internship! Your advice is appropriate for everyone who has a job of any kind at any time–not just internships. Best wishes for continued success in your career!

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