Make The Most of Your Internship

by Samantha Plotner

Barbie’s ready to take on the professional
world, one cup of coffee at a time!

For better or for worse, interning has become expected of many college students. Especially if you’re a student simultaneously, you want to make sure you are getting everything you can from your internship. Here are some ways to make the most of your internship in order to have fantastic recommendations, and maybe even a job, at the end.

Know the Office Norms and Practices
How do your supervisors dress? Are discussions and outside conversations typical or does everyone sit quietly at their desks? Is there a specific way of doing your assignments (say a prefered font or format)? Figure the norms out and follow them. If you have questions, ask them. That’s the beauty of being an intern- in your first week or two on the job you’re not expected to know all the office ins and outs.

Keep it Professional
Even if you work in a casual setting, you need to be cognizant of the impression that you’re making. Even if your coworkers make regular conversation about life outside the office, certain things (like the raging party you went to this weekend or the fight you’re having with your friend) should stay out of the office.

Be Enthusiastic and Don’t Complain
When your supervisor says jump, you ask how high. You may be doing the most mind-numbing task in the world but don’t complain about it to your supervisors. Part of being an intern is doing the grunt work like data entry or filing. Have a smile on your face and do it well. If you really need to, vent to a friend once you’re out of the office. No one likes the intern with a bad attitude. In certain positions, excelling at the basics can lead to getting more responsibilities.

Volunteer
Is there a project going on you would like to be a part of? Ask your supervisor if there is anything you can do to help with that. If the chance comes up to take on more responsibility, say yes. If you have a skill set you think would be useful,make it known, and volunteer to put it to use. If there is something you would like to learn, volunteer for an assignment where you could learn it. If something needs to get done that isn’t being taken care of, and you can do it, volunteer to take it on.

Stay in Touch
The truth is that sometimes getting an interview or job is about who you know or about what your former supervisors say about you. So keep in touch. Connect on LinkedIn or e-mail occasionally. If you interned at a non-profit be a volunteer if they need them. If you were an enthusiastic and effective intern your supervisors will more likely than not want to be kept up to date with what you’re doing. Another good touch? Handwritten thank you notes at the end of the position. Also be sure to thank your former supervisor anytime they act as a reference for you. If the recommendation is particularly in depth (say for Teach for America or graduate school), then send a handwritten note.

Samantha Plotner is a senior at Barnard College and Senior Editor of The Nine Ways of Knowing blog.

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