Your first internship is kind of like the first weekend trip you take with a new significant other. You know you both like each other, but you just aren’t quite sure if you’re ready to commit to one another. While my advice on your relationship may send you—or your partner—in the wrong direction, here are my 10 laws for you to have an awesome internship.
1. Always be prepared
The sage advice I once received as an intern: “Always have a pen and paper with you.” This bid me well, and I trust it’ll do the same for you. You never know when you’ll need to write something down. And taking notes on your phone won’t always be appropriate. Pen and paper. Don’t forget it.
2. Think long term
Identify a few skills or experiences you’d like to add to your résumé at the end of your internship. Once you’ve done that, go find the opportunities that match. Express interest to your manager in learning particular software or gaining some exposure to a certain area of the company. If you’re unsure of exactly which skills to focus on, take a look at what you believe to be your “ideal” job description post-graduation.
3. Update your résumé
If you’re anything like me, it’s troublesome to remember what I ate yesterday let alone the work I completed 6-months ago. Combat this by keeping a list of the projects you’re currently working on, detailing information about the tasks you’ve completed and the tools you’ve utilized. Then… when it’s time to prepare for the fall career fair, all that’s left to touch up your résumé completion is selecting which experiences you’d like to include.
4. Stay busy
What’s the quickest way for you to show a lack of ambition at work? Any guesses? It’s sitting at your desk! Don’t wait for your boss or a coworker to put work on your desk. Be proactive and start asking questions. If your manager and fellow employees don’t have anything to give you, go find the training section of your company’s intranet. And then explore! You don’t want to be the intern who lacks drive and motivation… do you?
5. Make your presence known
In one of my summer internships, I made it a point to wake up an hour early every Friday morning, so that I could pick up doughnuts for a meeting I didn’t even attend. Why? Because when it came down to selecting an intern for a high-level project, I was the first intern the managers thought of. So, while fetching coffee, filing papers and making photocopies will not build your résumé it can build up your reputation with management. Make yourself visible. Your volunteered coffee runs might just deem you worthy of a mention.
6. Find a mentor
Now, the actual value of a solid mentor is beyond quantification. Do yourself the favor of finding at least one person during the duration of your internship that you can go to for advice and support. A common mistake is to think that this person has to be an executive. This is untrue. First and foremost, keep an eye out for the shakers and movers in a company. Second, look to those employees who have the job you’d like when you graduate. No one like that? Look for others who graduated with the degree you’re earning or worked in your ideal industry. I don’t care what. Just find that person…or…those people.
7. Ask for feedback
It might be company policy that you’re scheduled for a formal appraisal process or performance management review with your manager. I suggest taking this a step farther. Ask co-workers, other managers, and anyone else you may have worked with for feedback on your performance. It’s common that they’ll have feedback for you but wouldn’t have offered it otherwise. Remember: closed mouths don’t get fed.
8. Make a lasting impression
Have you ever opened another person’s partially done work with no clue where to begin? Me too. Even when completing “small” project tasks, think about how what you’re doing now may affect something when you’re back at school. Often, your fellow employees will need to reference something you’ve done, so it’s important do document exactly what you did. For example, if you’re making an excel spreadsheet take the time to add a comment explaining the formulas you used. You’ll be appreciated long after you’ve gone.
9. Don’t accidentally burn bridges
It’s a small world. Never forget that. You just don’t know when you may work with a co-worker again. Leave the channels of communication open. This is especially important to those of you entering a niche field. Aside from adding co-workers on LinkedIn, send them an email with your contact information and a short thank you for any guidance and support they provided you the last few months.
If someone went out of their way to help you or they have the power to hire you then give them a handwritten ‘Thank You’ card. A display of appreciation can go along way, and it adds another layer of context to the relationship you have with your employer. Focus on being the intern who went above and beyond… not the one who is forgotten.
10. Hustle your face off.
Admittedly, I stole this from my business hero, Gary Vaynerchuk, but I trust he’d like my use. No matter what you do, no matter where you go… always be hustling. Work your ass off. Remember that it’s okay to make mistakes and to ask questions. Just never make the same mistake or ask the same question twice.
What are some of the best internship tips and tricks you have for interns to go above and beyond? We’d love to hear them below in the comments or on Twitter.