You have just started your coveted summer internship. You are probably excited. This may be your first “real” job. You may be a little nervous. What if I don’t like it? What if I’m bored? What if I do like it…a lot…and I don’t get a full time offer? These are all normal questions. And while I can’t guarantee that you will get an offer at the end of the summer, I can promise that if you follow these few career tips, you will be set up for success in your journey.
1) Time Management
I don’t necessarily mean arrive to work on time….although the BEST interns are the first to arrive and last to leave. This is great career advice on its own. I mean pay attention to the calendar. You have a maximum of 10 weeks to make your mark this summer. Trust me, those 10 weeks will absolutely fly. You will receive your first performance review in about 5 weeks. What could they possibly evaluate in 5 weeks? While you may not have had a chance to turn in much work or demonstrate a firm grasp in the field, you will have had an opportunity from DAY ONE to display strong soft skills. Attentiveness, enthusiasm, willingness to learn, strong organizational skills, great communication skills (both verbal and written) are all traits that are observed and quickly evaluated by your peers and managers. Hit the ground running your very first week and MAKE YOUR MARK EARLY! You don’t have the luxury of a full semester or school year to slowly gain your footing. Show them your capabilities…ASAP!!
2) Prepare for Common Scenarios
a) Boredom. It is very difficult for any company to predict the volume of work in the weeks of the internship. There is going to be downtime. This is vacation season and managers, teammates and clients will be out of the office. So how do you handle? You could play around on the internet, text your friends, wander the halls chatting with co-workers OR you could MAXIMIZE this time by asking each teammate what you can do to help them, research the industry and competition to better understand your job, bring ideas to the table such as finding a more efficient way to organize your work flow or anticipating your boss’s needs and proactively taking something off his or her plate. Whatever you do -stay eager, alert and engaged.
b) Compromising work-social situations. I hope you work with a fun group of people who enjoy each other’s company. You want to have opportunities to network outside of the office. It is very likely that alcohol will be involved. Your summer internship is not the time to demonstrate your flip cup skills. Make sure you are 21 if you are drinking. Your biggest peer pressure will probably come from the most recent hires. They will be thrilled to have drinks on the company dime. But, remember, you, dear Intern, are still in a trial period. Don’t ruin your reputation and chances for success over one night at the ball game.
c) Too much on your plate. Most companies are thrilled to have interns employed to engage in high quality, highly visible assignments. They want you to learn and determine if you are the right fit for the organization. But very few interns know how to prioritize effectively. “What if I get assignments from 3 different teammates and then the senior executive gives me something else? I don’t want to say no, but I am dying over here”. The best way to handle this situation is to ask the simple question “when do you need this?” upon receipt of each assignment. Some of the most organized interns I have seen created a white board and listed their projects visibly for all teammates to see so there was no confusion about their work flow. Don’t be afraid to ask your managers to help you prioritize.
3) Good to GREAT
Let’s assume you are doing everything your team expects of you. You are a valued employee. Your teammates generally want to work with you. But you want more. You are used to being the best in class. How can you be the BEST in the workplace? Here are some thoughts on what makes a good intern GREAT.
Good interns understand the job. GREAT interns understand the company.
Your daily responsibilities, however small, will mean so much more to you (and others) if you put them in context with the overall goals of the company. How does what I am doing affect the bottom line? While sometimes your work may seem like “busy work”, chances are good that there is a greater purpose and your clients and teammates will benefit from your efforts.
Good interns do exactly what is asked. GREAT interns anticipate the next step and ask for more work.
While you can’t be a mind reader, it sure would make your boss happy! You can get closer to that skill. Listen in staff meetings. Understand what is on everyone’s plate and what you can do to make their life easier. Research a more efficient way to do something. Find an article or white paper on the challenges that your company faces. Be a valued teammate.
Good interns demonstrate strong technical skills. GREAT interns have strong technical AND soft skills.
These skills were mentioned before…those unwritten rules that show the emotional intelligence of an individual beyond just book smarts. You can be this intern with the right focus on maturity and attentiveness.
Good interns network well with leadership. GREAT interns have strong relationships at all levels.
Some interns are so focused on getting to know their boss, that they forget to engage with and support their teammates. Look around you…are you generally viewed as an important asset? Do you ask how you can help them with their work? Are you kind and respectful to the administrative assistant on your team? The BEST interns understand they are working with PEOPLE…just like them.
If you follow these career tips, you are far more likely to position yourself to receive a full time offer or launch your career (if you’re an underclassman). Best of luck! Go get ’em!
Please reach out to me at Elaine@careerrevelations.com if I can be helpful to you on your career journey.