Countless college students have left campus to begin their summer internships.
This year marks the fourth time I’m joining a new organization as an intern. Some experiences have been better than others, but I have learned from each opportunity.
If you’re starting your first internship this summer—or your fifth—here are five tips I’ve picked up along the way to help you.
1. Sit in on as many meetings as possible.
Although your supervisors may not involve you in high-level projects, make sure you’re inquiring about taking part in meetings and strategy sessions. That way, you can see how the organization operates.
Even if you don’t play a direct role in the meeting, at least offer to take notes and email a follow-up message to the employees involved. This is a good idea for a number of reasons:
• It shows initiative and reliability. Eventually your superiors will trust you with more important tasks.
2. Offer to do projects that your supervisor may not have considered.
• It helps you retain information. Your teachers have been right all along: Taking notes will help you better remember the important stuff.
• It breaks up the day. Do you really need a reason to get out of your cubicle to interact with others?
Good interns listen to their supervisors and help with whatever tasks they can. Great interns go above and beyond that. Asking to perform a task that your supervisor may not have considered could earn you some respect. But more importantly, it means you’ll get to do work that interests you.
If you’re a media junkie, inquire about tasks involving media monitoring or pitching. If you have a knack for social media engagement, ask if you can shadow the company’s social media manager.
If you’re doing something you enjoy—as opposed to a job someone told you to complete—chances are, you’ll perform it with more vigor.
3. Ask if you can help co-workers in other departments.
To impress your supervisors, you need to work harder than they think you can work, or at least harder than they expect. What better way to do that than by completing tasks given to you by someone other than that supervisor?
By doing so, you will gain a more broad perspective on the organization and how it functions. The opportunity might also lead to work that you can include in your portfolio.
Just make sure you get the OK from your supervisor before you light off to another department looking for work. It could be extraordinarily bad if you’re doing someone else’s work before you complete the job your supervisor gave you.
4. Take advantage of events outside of the office
The fulltime employees have probably worked at the company longer than you, so some have formed friendships. If they are gathering outside of work, try to get involved. Whether it’s a trip to happy hour or an industry-specific award ceremony, try to spend time with your temporary co-workers.
Make sure you know when to ask—and when to stop asking—for an invite if the event is off limit to interns. You don’t want to be that
intern, the one the fulltime employees are trying to dodge as they leave for happy hour.
(Speaking of happy hour, be careful; you also don’t want to be known as the intern that got wasted and … well, you can finish that thought.)
Additionally, if there are other interns working with you, try to form a young professionals group, or at least get together for lunch with them on occasion. These other interns can help you through your summer, and they could be valuable contacts down the road.
5. Use LinkedIn to connect with coworkers
Interns meet lots of people in their first day or days on the job. Even for people who can easily recall names, it can be difficult to put faces to all of the names. If, like me, you have trouble remembering names, the experience can be downright stressful.
LinkedIn can be an amazing resource for helping jog your memory. Here’s why:
• You will have a contact list. Consider it a cheat-sheet: All of the names that you need to remember, complete with job description and profile picture.
• You have another chance to connect with your coworkers. You never know who will peruse your resume online and what it could lead to one day.
• You can maintain the relationships you forge. Not only is LinkedIn an excellent way to start relationships with co-workers, but also to retain them when your internship ends.
Fellow interns (or supervisors), is there any advice you’d care to add?
James Mignano is a communication student at The College at Brockport, State University of New York. He is currently a social media intern at Carestream Health and has previously been an intern at Break the Ice Media and George Eastman House. You can follow him @J_Mignano or read his blog at www.MillennialsMarketing.Wordpress.com.