Make the Most of Internships

Posted by Judy Anne Cavey on May 9, 2012 in , , | 1 Comment

Interning gives you the opportunity to show your value!

Never think any internship is a dead end. Instead, think of it as an important beginning to your career. Taking that into consideration, what you do during an internship makes all the difference.

A study found 91% of employers want grads who have had one or more internships, but 50% of those employers haven’t yet taken on any new interns for the summer months. What does this mean? Those wanting internships will have stiff competition. In order to impress an employer, once you do land an internship, I’ve compiled helpful tips below.

Ask for Feedback

During your internship, keep in mind regular constructive feedback on your performance will help in the long run. Ask for it if your supervisor is not forthcoming with much feedback. It’s not easy when that feedback spotlights weaknesses, however, that’s an opportunity to learn and correct what’s wrong. Positive feedback will serve as a boost, not only to your ego, but to your future performance–knowing what you’re doing right helps to build confidence.

Employers will often watch carefully what you do with their feedback. If you’re the type to take notes, refer back to them, and make necessary corrections they’ve suggested, that gives you the opportunity to show you take direction well.

Networking Occasion

Use your internship to network, making valuable connections within the company. These contacts may be instrumental in assisting you in obtaining an interview and employment later.

Ask for business cards, jot down notes on the back: when you met the person, what was discussed, and how they might help you. This isn’t a time to hard sell yourself, rather it’s a time to show interest while gathering information. Opportune times to do this are when you are introduced to someone, meeting people in the lunch room or on breaks, riding in the elevator or walking up or down stairs. I once had the golden opportunity to interact with the president of a major company when we were admiring artwork displayed at a corporate office. It’s rare times like these you’ll want to introduce yourself with a handshake and smile. Let the person know what department you are in and that you appreciate the internship.

It takes a certain amount of confidence to calmly talk to people in key positions, especially the president of the company! Practicing what you’ll say before a golden opportunity is important.

Don’t Just Sit There!

When assigned work, after completion, recheck what you’ve done for errors. Ask for more work. Never sit at your desk looking bored! If there’s a temporary lull, take that as a cue to ask your supervisor if it’s alright to review something that’s unclear, or check with coworkers to see what they have for you, or review your notes. 

Remember, as an intern, there’s always something to learn.

Dress the Part

I once heard the story of a man who always dressed in a suit and tie when he went to work. Looking at him, you’d assume he had a managerial position of some sort. But in reality, he had a job with little prestige. Smart guy, he knew dressing the part might one day land him the part!

Look around the office. What are most people wearing? Do coworkers stick out like a sore thumb, or do they blend in with management?  Who is getting ahead, are these workers dressing the part for a job they one day hope to obtain?

Now, look at yourself. What do your clothes say about you? How about your hair, jewelery, tattoos, high-heels? If the skirt is too short, the blouse too low cut, heels too high, the pants too baggy (or hanging low) and the hair too radical–what message do you think is being sent? Is it a professional one? Does it adhere to company policy?

A good rule of thumb to dressing for work is to go more conservative than coworkers. If they show up on Friday’s in grungy jeans and a wrinkled t-shirt, you show up in a clean and ironed shirt paired with dressy jeans. When you plan your work wardrobe ahead of time, you’ll be less likely to make errors.

The Final Week

How you exit an internship is as equally important as how you begin one. The week before your departure date, if your supervisor hasn’t scheduled a meeting with you, ask to schedule one. Begin (and end) with thanking them for the opportunity to intern with their company. Highlight what you’ve learned, how you improved and what you plan to do better. Ask to be considered for a position. Obtain a written letter of recommendation from your supervisor on company letterhead before your exit date. Ask if you may use them as a reference and if they’d like to post a recommendation on your LinkedIn profile. 

Work mentors and trusted coworkers you’ve worked closely with should be asked for recommendations. Thank them for their words of wisdom, assistance, or patience by making reference to particular incidences during the internship. They’ll appreciate you recognizing what they did that made a difference. Leave thank you notes to those you were unable to contact in person.

For more information about interning, see similar posts listed here under “internships” and another post, Please, Don’t Do That!


If you found this blog post interesting or helpful, your retweets and sharing are appreciated!

*This post was featured on the home page and Career section on May 18th.