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Make The Most Of Your Internship

June 17, 2015

Your internship is a precious resource. There are few opportunities for you to show your stuff to a possible future employer. So how can you make the most out of your internship this summer? 

Understand expectations, and then exceed them

John at DuPont put it simply, “Understand your manager's expectations of you: spend quality time talking with your manager to clearly understand what he/she expects of you throughout this assignment.  Work to meet or exceed these expectations.”

What you do every day matters. It doesn’t just matter when people are watching, it’s the stuff you do when no one’s watching that makes a difference. Take the time to gain a firm understanding of the internship position, and then go above those expectations. Your goal should be to impress your manager. Take Charlene’s advice, an expert at Gap, “Bring your very best self everyday.”

If you do, you’ll not only put yourself in a good position to get hired at the location of your internship. You will also learn a tremendous amount of on the job skills required for the work force.

Be professional, all the time

It may be shocking, but when you’re in college things are typically all about you. Your major, your classes, your internship, your social group, and how your parents haven’t sent you money are all topics of conversation while in school. In the workplace it’s all about everyone else, especially in regards to professionalism. Be sure to dress professionally, and be mindful of the needs of others around you. Keep your conversation on the tame side, and related to work unless your manager brings up a topic that is outside the bounds of your task.

An expert from Cardinal Health, Ashley, added this, “It’s important to dress for the job you want and not the job you have. Be sure to find appropriate clothing based on the dress code for your company and portray yourself in a professional manner. Once you begin your internship, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Your manager will understand you don’t have a lot of previous experience and will expect you to ask questions. Also, if you don’t have enough work, don’t be afraid to ask for more work.”

Demonstrate your leadership abilities early and often

Leaders are rare and highly coveted in the professional world. No matter what field you find yourself, if you can be a leader success is sure to follow. This is especially important in your internship since your employer is actively looking to see who sets themselves above the rest.

Steve from Caterpillar gave this amazing insight, “What tends to set any employee apart from others is their leadership capability.  Demonstrating leadership can be tricky, though, as you do not want to come off as being too aggressive.  Strong leaders tend to rise to the top naturally.  You will no doubt in your internship be asked to work in several groups.  In this setting, do not sit back and wait for someone to ask you something. 

Ask pointed questions and show your insight.  Be confident, but not arrogant.  As an intern, you bring a perspective to any task or project that is important.  Be willing to provide that insight.  When tasks are being assigned, show enthusiasm for the project or a part of the project.  Doing these things will help position you to be placed in leadership roles.  Even if that role is informal (i.e. leading a project), it gives you exposure to your leadership, and this is what can differentiate you from the other interns.”

Your internship is a precious gift, so do not waste it. You make the most of your internship by being highly intentional with every moment, opportunity, and conversation. When you’re done at the end of the summer make sure everyone you worked with is clamoring to have you return to work with them.


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