An internship is a great opportunity to show a prospective company how amazing you are. Not only do you have a ‘foot in the door,” this 8- to 12-week assignment gives hiring managers a snapshot of your personality, skill set, ambition, communication skills and of course intelligence.
We’ve asked business experts for advice on how to raise your career prospects, shine among the competition and make a lasting impression.
Erase your autopilot
Be open to a new corporate culture and a dynamic environment, which may be new to you.
“As an intern, you are walking into a new environment, with pre-existing systems and procedures,” explains Dr. Kat Cohen, CEO and founder of IvyWise an educational consulting firm based in New York. She suggests having an open mind and embracing the company’s way of doing things.
“In order to soak in as much as possible, take detailed notes whenever your supervisor shows you how to do a task,” she continues. “Even if it’s something simple that you think you already know, remove any assumptions you associate with it and approach the task as if you are learning something entirely new. For example, if it’s your responsibility to mail out a package, write down exactly how mailings are addressed and where they are placed.”
Maintain a “first-day” attitude
Every intern strives to make a promising initial impression by dressing professionally, arriving early, and asking thoughtful questions. Keep this discipline the entire duration of your internship.
“As the summer progresses, some students start to let these good habits fall by the wayside,” says Cohen. “It’s normal and healthy to feel comfortable at your internship, but do not let settling in turn into complacency.”
Maintain professional habits throughout the course of your internship, as it demonstrates your commitment. “So, approach your last day with the same level of care as you did the first time you walked through your company’s door,” she adds.
Turn “mistakes” into growth opportunities
Everyone slips up at work, especially during the first few weeks at a new internship, Cohen says, but instead of dwelling on these incidents and allowing mistakes to take a toll on your confidence, strive to learn from each occurrence.
“For example, if you’re prone to ‘careless’ mishaps such as typos or incorrect formatting, prioritize rereading and editing your work. Internships are learning processes; show your supervisor you are eager to grow by addressing initial areas of weakness or uncertainty,” she says.
Be the go-to intern your supervisor thinks of for a project.
“As you get comfortable with your day-to-day tasks, start looking for additional projects or opportunities that connect to your role,” Cohen says. “The most memorable interns are students who strive to go above and beyond a company’s defined set of responsibilities and apply what they learn to take their work to the next level.”
If you are struggling to think of additional projects or ways to expand your skill set, reach out to your supervisor to pencil in a time to discuss new projects and learning opportunities for you to get involved with, Cohen suggests.
Treat your internship like a real job
Although you may feel like “just an intern,” you are an important part of the team.
“Take your duties seriously and show your manager that you are there to work and make the most out of the opportunity,” says Beth Tucker, CEO of KNF&T Staffing Resources, based in Boston. She suggests taking notes during meetings, asking questions, and meeting deadlines.
“This will show your attentiveness and that you’re serious about learning and doing a good job,” Tucker continues.
In addition, she says to continue making a great impression by being honest and respectful, and offering help when you have extra time on your hands.
Ask for feedback
Feedback may seem like an intimidating word, but it is the key to helping you grow and succeed throughout your career.
“Don’t think of it as criticism – shift your mindset to think of feedback as a valuable enhancement to your skills,” states Tucker. “If you can do something more efficiently or better, then feedback will help you get there. Plus, it demonstrates your eagerness to better yourself in the role, which is valuable to managers.”
It’s true, confidence is important, but you also need to be teachable.
“A 20-something know-it-all is a huge red flag,” cautions Tim Toterhi, a TEDx speaker, ICF certified executive coach, and the founder of Plotline Leadership, a Raleigh, NC-based company that helps people craft their success stories. “Sure, maybe you’ll run the place one day, but probably not on day one. Bring the correct balance of confidence and humility to the discussion and you’ll increase rapport with the hiring manager.”