Published May 23, 2014
In the current job market, every professional experience counts for young workers, especially when it comes to internships.
“Students that make a good impression during the course of their internship are much more likely to get hired by an organization, or at least be able to make valuable networking connections that they will be able to use as a future reference,” says Penny Loretto, a career expert and blogger for About.com.
Interns have a short period of time to prove their value and worth to a prospective employer, so it’s important they make the right connections and leave the best impression.
For students looking to excel at their summer internship, experts offer the following the tips:
The quickest way to turn off an employer is to show up on the first day with zero knowledge about the business, its mission and its leaders.
“It’s important to know as much as you can about the company and the industry so you can show you’ve done your homework,” says Jamie Fall, vice president of workforce and talent development policy at HR Policy Association.
The internet has made it easier to learn about a company, its history, culture and leaders. Students should also stay up to date on industry news and current events to show they’re well-rounded candidates.
Know Your Place
Students’ positions at the top of their class, head of their sorority or all-star athlete become irrelevant in an office environment.
“High-achieving students may think that because they’re popular in school or getting straight As, they’re on the same level as the people they work for at their internships,” says Aravinda Rao Souza, senior marketing manager at BullHorn www.bullhorn.com. “This is not the case. Interns are, unfortunately, at the bottom of the corporate ladder.”
Interns should be willing to tackle any task to their fullest capability to show their willingness to be a team player, as that will lead to more opportunities, she says.
Go Above and Beyond…Every Time
Even if their duties consist of making photocopies and grabbing coffee for executives, there are always ways for interns to go above and beyond to make a lasting impression.
Fall recommends students always over deliver on assignments. For example, don’t be afraid to help other interns complete their tasks or to ask for additional duties. “You really want to show them you are a team player, and that’s where internships can be tricky,” he says. “Companies are looking for people that will fit well within the culture and team atmosphere. If someone shows up and treats it like a cut throat competition it hurts them in the long run.”
Interns must prove their competence through little tasks before taking on larger assignments.
“Don’t assume that any task--so long as it’s legal--is beneath you,” says Souza. “You may think that you’re worthy of writing a client-facing research report, but there are full-time employees who may not even be trusted to do that,” says Souza. “And just because something seems dull doesn’t mean it’s not a great learning opportunity.”
Use Your Strengths and Weaknesses to Your Favor
Impressing the higher ups is the name of the game for interns, and the last thing they want to do is accept an assignment with no idea how to complete it.
Everyone has their own areas of expertise, and interns need to be aware of their strengths and weaknesses and use them to their advantage.
“If you see an opportunity to be proactive and show what you are made of, make sure you are able to follow through,” says Ernst. At the same time if you can add to the company don’t be afraid to speak up. “If you see something being done and there’s a better way to do it say it.”
Always Be Professional—Even Outside the Office
Internships aren’t only about work. Companies often take interns on trips outside the office, but whether it’s a baseball game or out for drinks, interns should still act professional and network with other employees.
“If there's an opportunity to spend time with colleagues outside of the office, maintain a personable but professional approach,” says Loretto. “Due to the short duration of most internships, it's important to keep in mind how your behavior may be perceived by others.”