I have a confession to make. I was an intern once and I wasn’t a particularly great one. I showed up on time. I did everything that was asked of me. I was polite and respectful.
But that isn’t all it takes to be a great intern.
To be great, you need to be memorable. You need to do more than you are asked and look for challenges beyond your assigned tasks. You must be inquisitive and thoughtful.
You must be all of these things in addition to being punctual, polite, respectful, and diligent.
Here is your chance to learn from my mistakes and the mistakes of interns I have since worked with. If you want your internship to turn into employment, be memorable (in a good way) by following these 7 rules.
- Don’t let them catch you doing nothing. Sometimes your supervisor may give you nothing to do. But if he finds you days later sitting around still doing nothing – and you haven’t since checked in – it is not going to make you look awesome. Managers get caught up in projects sometimes, and you should make it your responsibility to check in periodically for more work. If your supervisor doesn’t have anything for you, use your time to learn about the industry. Read business-related blog posts and be pro-active about finding ways to improve the organization.
- Your internship isn’t your time to catch up on social media. If you sit down at your desk and the first thing you do is log into your personal social media accounts, then you are going to a leave a memorable impression – one of being lazy. Even if your manager has asked nothing of you (see above), you should go see him/her (daily!), ask questions, pursue learning experiences, and seek out others you can help. You will not always have the kind of energy you do now in the workplace. Take advantage of it and gain experience, learn – and for goodness sake – put your phone aside for a few hours.
- Don’t follow by example (sometimes). As an intern, you are a new employee. You haven’t proven yourself to anyone. If you see some managers chatting on a personal call or answering a personal text, that doesn’t give you permission to do so.
- Take off your headphones (or at least turn them down). You may be used to working with music blasting in your ears in your dorm room. And that might be okay with your new employer…but it also might not be. It’s not that there is anything wrong with listening to music while you work. But if your manager has to physically touch you to get your attention, you have put that person in an uncomfortable situation. It is awkward and by the time it occurs, your supervisor has probably said your name 3-4 times and it is likely she is pretty grumpy about that.
- Ask questions. It’s okay not to know everything. It is expected that you won’t when you are just starting out a career. So ask away! But remember, the only stupid question is one that has already been answered. Take notes and refer to them often to avoid asking the same questions over and over again.
- Don’t take it personal. Sometimes your supervisor may be in a bad mood. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t like you, or that she doesn’t want to teach you, or that she doesn’t think your questions are valid. It may just mean she got caught in a traffic jam on the way to work, or her toddler threw a massive tantrum in the morning, or she didn’t get enough sleep. Your manager is there to help you. If you think your manager may be angry with you, address it and find out if you did something wrong. Otherwise, remember everyone has bad days.
- Communicate about your schedule. As an intern, you likely need more flexibility than a regular employee. You may have exams to study for, or events you need to attend. This is okay, but do your best to let your employer know up front, ASAP, and don’t just pull a no show.
You are just starting out in the workplace. It is stressful and you want to make a good impression. If you want to be a memorable intern, remember to be human, be likable, and follow the above 7 rules.
Best of luck at your internship!