Starting an Internship Off Right

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Starting an Internship Off Right

Last night, I hosted a Clubhouse meeting with young professionals who were anxious but excited to start their summer internships this week. Our discussion focused on how to start an internship off right. I provided them with critical insight about what bosses love and based on their insightful questions, I have summarized the most important takeaways below. I hope this advice helps you to succeed as you begin your own summer internship!

How do I make a great first impression?

  • Have a notebook with you at all times and take lots of notes. Take notes on everything
  • Do your homework and check out the company website for news and to be in the know.
  • Set a Google alert for your company and top clients. This will allow you to stay up to date on relevant news throughout your internship.
  • Follow up with people you meet during orientation and ask for 1:1 meetings. In a remote internship, ask to schedule virtual coffee with them.

Look for career advisers who can help you understand the unwritten rules of the workplace. One such adviser can be the person you interviewed with. What are the “unwritten rules” in a workplace and how do you decipher them? The “unwritten rules” reflect the company culture and they aren’t provided in the employee handbook. It’s your job to figure them out. Here’s how:

Pay attention to the words they use, how they communicate online, who does much of the speaking and in what tone they speak (formal or not).

Pay careful attention to processes how things get done. For example, how information is distributed and who is CC’d on emails.
What do bosses want?

Figure out what their Pet Peeves are. Ask your supervisor or boss: are there things that you like when working with junior people and is there anything that drives you crazy? Questions to ask when you get your first assignments:

  • When is this due?
  • What would you like the end product to look like?
  • Do you have a copy of a memo format you were happy with?
  • Is there anything else I can do on the project?
  • Could we schedule 15 minutes to go over the project I just finished?

What are traits of the best employees, and what makes them standout?

  • Have a “can do” attitude that conveys confidence, but they know what they don’t know and are unafraid to ask questions.
  • Inspire confidence by managing expectations and communicating what they can and cannot do. For example, they will send status updates on their projects to communicate where they are, what they have left, and when their boss can expect the finished product.
  • Be a self-starter by bringing solutions and new ideas.
  • Be responsive. For example, don’t wait until you have an answer before replying to a question in an email. Instead, email back that you don’t have an answer right now, but you will look into it and have an answer for them by the end of the day.

One thing to keep in mind is that succeeding in an internship is different than succeeding in school. Unlike school, assignments for an internship are rarely just one and done. Be sure to check-in and ask for feedback on previous assignments. By doing this, you learn ways to improve future work and polish previous assignments. You’re ready for this challenge, and I am so excited to hear about all your successes!