We know that 93 percent of employers say that internship experience is the most important qualification, so pressure is high to perform well.
You’re excited, slightly anxious—okay, you’re really anxious—and not quite sure what to expect. I remember it well. With only days left for me as an undergraduate, and my own internship ending, I have learned a thing or two of value for any new intern. Now, take a deep breath, rest assured, and read on for advice on how to approach your new internship.
Treat your internship like a real job.
Even though you probably aren’t being paid (and especially if you are), your internship is essentially a job. What’s different from a real job is that you know that it’s temporary. How do you expect to gain “real-world” experience if you don’t treat it like the real thing? This also means always be on time and dressed for success according to office standards.
Be ready to work.
Your time in the office is time spent dedicated to the office. Balancing an internship with classes, extracurriculars, andpersonal life is hard. Don’t cheat yourself, though—because, really, you’re the one losing an opportunity—put everything else on pause when you are supposed to be working in the office.
You may think that you’re a good listener and will remember all the details, but jot it down—just in case. Especially in the beginning, when you will be learning a lot. It saves you from having to bother a supervisor by asking again later.
Don’t fully understand instructions? Don’t be scared to ask. Good work is an expectation, so there should be no guesswork. Supervisors prefer questions initially to errors later.
Keep cell phones and social media at bay.
Unless you work in social media, like I did, keep it away. You’re only cheating yourself by giving into that distraction. Try hard to start off with good habits. Once you break your good habits, it’s hard to go back.
Gladly take on the tedious work.
When you first start out, your supervisor doesn’t quite know what to expect from you. Of course, you are going to be a rock star intern, but you need to prove that to them. They may gauge your ability in the beginning with seemingly monotonous tasks—show them that they can depend on you to produce high-quality work.
Do more than is asked.
Show your drive and that you’re serious about your internship by completing work that goes beyond set expectations. Done with your assigned work early? Speak up for more! Show that you’re a valuable member of the team, and after some time, you will be the first person that people think of for special intern projects.
Ask for feedback . . . and take it appropriately when given.
At the start, ask for feedback on particular tasks, knowing that you will regularly complete them and want to perfect them. After settling into the internship, seek more feedback. It shows that you are eager to learn and to improve. When you get some constructive criticism (whether seeking it or not), be open to it and then show that you understood by working to improve any problem areas.
Get to know people in the office—in and out of your department. They know the industry, were once in your shoes, and may have connections for future opportunities. Interning is about gaining hands-on experience, but it is also about meeting people. It is all about the networking.
Understand that your internship is what you make of it.
You are the person in charge of how much or little you gain from this experience. Even if you quickly find that you don’t want to work in the field as you once thought, don’t let this opportunity go to waste.
As I bid farewell to my own internship at Calypso, I am excited for those entering the summer internship program. Interning can certainly be nerve-wracking and sometimes exhausting, but what you gain is invaluable. Go in strong and work hard to maintain momentum, and you will gain more than you put in. It’s hard to know what exactly to expect from your internship, but trust that you’re in for a great learning experience.
Halie Olszowy is a graduating senior at the University of New Hampshire studying sociology and business administration. As a Calypso spring intern, Halie focuses on social media strategy, industry research, and various PR and marketing team projects.