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.

Career Lessons from Rebecca Black

By Lin Yuan (C’2013)

By now, I’m sure you are all familiar with the musical sensation that is Rebecca Black and her enthusiasm for Fridays. (If you haven’t seen it, here is the infamous video )

Whether you love her or hate her though, you do have to admit one thing: at least she’s trying, right? If the 13-year-old wants to be a famous singer, she’s well on her way to becoming famous, at least. Black’s original YouTube video has over 43 million views and her song is also now a top-downloaded song on iTunes! Furthermore, her 15 minutes of fame could already be generating enviable profits for her.

But, all this from a song stating the day after Friday is Saturday and Sunday comes afterwards? It doesn’t seem like Rebecca Black has much innate talent for songwriting… Sure, we should give her credit for putting herself out there, but maybe she would be better off channeling her efforts elsewhere. A singing career may not be in the cards for Rebecca Black and that’s okay. Everyone has something they’re good at – Rebecca Black just needs to figure out what that might be for her and work towards her strengths.

So, here are the career lessons we can learn from Rebecca Black:

1)      Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there – Taking a risk every once in a while could pay off! Even if you feel it could be a long shot, it never hurts to try. If you’re really enthusiastic about a job or internship, but aren’t sure how competitive you are for the position, consider sending in an application anyway. An employer just might like what he sees. Also, take advantage of online networking platforms to further get your name out there. They can be a great way to share your ideas and gain more notoriety for yourself. (Check out our tips for networking using social media )

2)      …But make sure you do it right – You don’t want to generate buzz for yourself for all the wrong reasons. Be honest with yourself about what you’re really good at and not so good at. Inventory your skills and know what your unique skill set is.

Bottom line: Know what you want, know what you’re good at, then don’t be afraid to go for it! (Who knows? It could be fun, fun, fun, fun, fun.)

A Day in the Life: Fashion Week in New York

Read Meg York’s archived tweet feed here: http://www.vpul.upenn.edu/careerservices/MegYork_Feed.pdf

February 10th marked the beginning of Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in New York City. Penn Career Services is excited to bring you the opportunity to experience what goes on behind the runway as it happens thanks to Meg York (SAS ’10), on Thursday, February 17th.  If you’re interested in learning about the fashion industry, follow Meg on @PennCareerDay next Thursday! Read more below.

Meg York, SAS '10

Meg York works at boutique editorial agency Silent Models as Junior Booker and Assistant to the CEO.  Between its Paris and New York offices, Silent represents Isabeli Fontana, Carmen Kass, Ana Beatriz Barros, Anna Selezneva, and Snejana Onopka. As the New York office opened this summer, Silent has been an incredible learning opportunity for Meg, giving her the comprehensive experience of launching a new business in a competitive marketplace. With the CEO, she is involved in the day-to-day finance and operations that ensure long-term profitability. Training as Junior Booker, she works under the Creative Directors whose vision and style set Silent apart.

Meg spent the last few weeks coordinating visas, flights, and accommodations for 15 models, creating show packages, and scheduling castings in preparation for New York Fashion Week. She particularly looks forward to tweeting while new face Colinne walks exclusively for Calvin Klein.

Meg graduated from the College in 2010 with Majors in Biology and Political Science and Minor in Psychology. At Penn, Meg enjoyed researching for Professor Weisiger, coordinating the Cardiology Pipeline at Sayre as an Access Science Fellow, planning the “Bio-B-Q” with the Biology Student Advisory Board, and tap dancing as Emily Sachs Dance Benefit Chair and Show Chair for Soundworks Tap Factory.

Student Perspective: The Job You’ll Remember Forever

by Nick Raport, CAS ’12

So you’re looking for a job.

But not just any job. You want a job that will impress future employers, develop skills, pay you, and will be fun.

However, you know that those jobs don’t exist.

You’re wrong.

I’m a Team Coordinator for the Office of New Student Orientation and Academic Initiatives. When translated from the Penn jargon, that means I am one of the student workers who helps to put together and run New Student Orientation every fall, along with the events for the academic theme year the Provost’s Office sponsors.

During the summer, I plan all of those events you remember with fondness from your time as a freshman. Last fall, I personally oversaw Late Nights, the Penn Reading Project, and the Toga Party, to name just a few. Through the process of planning these, I built working relationships with Penn faculty and administration, both local and national businesses, and student leaders from every kind of organization imaginable. I learned how to properly compile budgets and file them within the University system, gained a working knowledge of the entire Adobe and Microsoft Office software suites, and how to run a virtual orientation using current social networking sites. I learned what to tell building administrators in order to let my event go longer without an extra charge, what to tell a caterer to get a few extra items, and how to ensure that vendors donate items for events like Pennfest.

I also maintain two major Penn websites, NSO and the Theme Year, constantly updating them and making sure they are both accurate and composed of the newest features.  Before I started this job, I just assumed that websites made themselves and were just for my viewing pleasure.

During NSO, you’re going to work. A lot. And you’ll be frustrated. You’ll want go home and sleep. Instead you’ll keep going beyond what you thought was possible. But the satisfaction of seeing all those students having the time of their lives at something that you have overseen from the moment it was proposed until the doors opened is worth it. Months later, you’ll pass people on Locust and they’ll be talking about how they want to go back to NSO, to dance amidst the statues of the PMA, to dress in togas with their entire class, and you’ll smile. Because you will know that you made that happen, that you are the reason those memories exist in the first place.

This job is very real, and not your imagination at all. This is the job you want on your resume. This is the job you will remember forever.

To apply to the NSOAI Management Internship Program for this year, search Penn Link for job #745101.  For more information, contact Troy Majnerick , Assistant Director of New Student Orientation.

Videos: how to find an internship in…

Internship season is upon us and many students are coming to CS to learn about finding an internship. In addition to reviewing the advice & listings on our website, you can check out the videos of interviews conducted with your fellow students to get a first-hand look at the internship search process.


Thinking about a government internship? Last Fall, we talked to four students who interned at NASA, Senate Banking Committee, Delaware Attorney General’s Office, and Department of Energy and Climate Change (UK). Here’s what they said about their jobs and how they found them:

Government Internships: Myths & Advice from Penn Career Services on Vimeo.  (Thanks to my wonderful colleague Claire Klieger for putting together this video)


For more videos like this on a variety of internships from start-ups to communications, visit the CS Internships Vimeo Channel.  And I hope these videos will inspire some of you to conduct some informational interviews of your own.