A summer internship can be a great way to get a jump start on building your network and gaining some great practical experience in your field. No matter your career aspirations, chances are there is an internship-type experience you can participate in. Whether you have landed your dream internship or are simply looking for tips to prepare for a future position, check out our 10 tips for thriving during a summer internship:
#1 Be a sponge
Soak it all in. Learn the company culture, participate in lunch and after-work activities, ask questions, observe, and learn all you can. We believe that there is never a negative learning experience, as you are always taking in knowledge to carry with you. Take notes of things you like and things you don’t like – there is always room for growth and an internship is a great place to start that professional development process.
#2 Find a mentor
Cliché, we know. But, ask anyone who has a positive mentor in their life and you will see just how important it is. This person doesn’t have to be your supervisor – whether it is another intern, someone in middle management, or even the CEO, find someone to learn from, bounce ideas off of, and to serve in that adviser role for you. Some mentor-mentee relationships last long past the internship experience and it is always nice to have someone (besides Career Services, of course) rooting for you in all your career-related endeavors.
#2 Make your supervisor’s life easier
Supervisors have a lot going on. Not only do they have all their own tasks and job responsibilities to think about, they have yours, too! Find ways to make their lives a little easier and be proactive in all you do. Perhaps you hear them talking about needing to send an email to some clients that you have been assisting with – draft up an email and send to your supervisor for approval. Constantly be on the lookout for ways to help and assist the team where you can.
#4 Keep a task log
Your future self will thank you for this. An internship is like anything else in life – all of a sudden you look up and you’re at the end of your experience feeling confused as to how you got there. Keep a meticulous log of all the projects and initiatives you worked on so you don’t have to go back and think about it later. Not only will this help you write a description of your position for your LinkedIn or resume, you can also help create a transition guide for your successor to leave your position better than you found it.
#5 Leave your position better than you found it
See what we did there? It should be your goal in any position you hold, organization you join, or team you serve on, to leave it better than you found it. Create a detailed transition guide for the next intern, build sustainable systems into the work you are doing, and be proactive about documenting the work you have done. If anything, it makes the next intern’s learning curve a little less steep.
#6 Understand an internship is an extended interview
Remember that your internship is really just an extended job interview – but please don’t let that stress you out! You are human and it is OK to mess up. But, make sure that you take notes, brush it off, and learn from those mistakes. Internships are a really great place for low-stakes learning with hands-on experience. Your supervisor (and everyone else around you for that matter) will be watching to see how you handle certain situations, what ideas you bring to the table, how proactive and helpful you are, and so on. Put yourself in the shoes of those managing you and wow them with your work ethic and resourcefulness. Show them that you are what their team or company is missing. Even if they aren’t hiring at the end of your internship process, the worst that could happen is you get a great reference for another position elsewhere.
#7 Meet with your supervisor regularly
While some internships will mandate that you meet with your supervisor on a regular basis, some might not. Meeting with your boss regularly is a great way to develop a relationship, ask questions, and build rapport that you might not always have time for on the go.
#8 Be resourceful
If you are going to ask a question, be certain it is a good one. We suggest taking some time to sift through any documents given to you, look through your office shared folder, and do some research during your first few days. This will make information easier to find later and will help you understand the processes and initiatives going on around you. Some internships have really great training programs and others are more of a “learn-as-you-go” process, but always try to find the answer to a question before asking your supervisor. You will not only learn more this way, but you will make your supervisor’s life a little easier.
#9 Use what you are learning in the classroom in your work
You might be interning this summer rather than taking classes, but try to apply what you are learning or have learned in your program to your work as an intern. After all, that’s what an internship is all about, right? Make those mental connections and we think you will find that 1) you will have a more enriched internship experience 2) you will continue to build on all this knowledge in your future classes. Not bad.
#10 Stay connected
Just because your internship is over at the end of the summer, doesn’t mean your relationships have to end. Stay connected with your supervisor, co-workers, and fellow interns. We suggest LinkedIn or through email, as both are great ways to build your professional network. Stay in touch with people you meet and connect with those who could serve as mentors, references, and even friends in your future career.
Have you interned in the past and have other thoughts or tips to add? Share them below!
Getting you hired sooner,
-OU Career Services Team