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How to be a Successful Intern

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Emily Kong
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Published on July 14, 2015

Intern (n):

A student or trainee that works in order to gain work experience.

That’s the point of an internship — to gain work experience that you could not learn in a classroom. In my opinion, an internship is the best thing a student could do before entering the workforce. You discover how you will work in an office setting. You will  figure out the kind of employee you could be, and you will be able to differentiate jobs that interest you from those that don’t.

While just being an intern and completing your tasks is one thing, there are many ways that you can go above and beyond to become a super intern.

No matter what kind of internship you have, there’s always something more you can do. There’s always another question to ask or another skill to gain. An internship is in place for you to learn real skills in a field you may end up in. You work with people who are living this career; therefore, you have the opportunity to be just like them someday.

The most important thing for you to do is ask questions. No matter what, you’re an intern. You’re a pre-professional in a professional environment, so there are bound to be things that you don’t know how to do yet, and that’s ok. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you’re unsure. Your supervisor will be happy to answer any questions you have, so they won’t have to correct you once you finish your task. Your supervisor is there to teach and support you. That’s why they signed on to have an intern. They will appreciate any questions you ask because your eagerness shows that you are attentive and willing to learn.

This should go without saying, but complete your tasks on time, and complete them fully. Do not turn in work that is half finished or that is done poorly, simply because you wanted to turn it in on time. If you’re struggling to meet a deadline, let your supervisor or co-workers know a few days before the project or task is due. They will work with you to make sure you do you best work. Also, because you are a brand new intern, they aren’t aware of your working pace. It might take a few trial and error sessions, but eventually, you will find your groove, and you will work well together.

If you complete your work early and have no more tasks to do, ask for more. My current supervisor told me that she has a running list of things for me to do if I ever run out of tasks. Again, you are just beginning and will have to find a happy work pace with your supervisor, so when in doubt, ask for more work because there will always be something for you to do. At a past internship, my supervisor wrote in a recommendation letter that I am a hard worker and that I will do any task because I constantly asked her if she needed any help. Who cares if it’s a menial task like organizing a desk or making copies? Your effort will be appreciated and it  won’t go unnoticed.

Something I started doing recently is taking notes while having one-on-one meetings with my supervisor, and I definitely recommend trying it out. Not only does it help you remember what you discussed, but it also shows that you are attentive. With that being said, you don’t have to copy down every single word that’s said, but jot down notes that you won’t remember or details that you think are important. Taking notes saves a lot of time in the end. If you can’t remember a specific dimension that your supervisor wanted you to use for a graphic, for example, you’ll have it written in your notes, and you won’t have to send an email or pop into their office.

Make it a habit to say hello/good morning to people when you get into the office – the same goes for saying goodbye/good afternoon/good evening when you leave. It seems like such a little detail, but again, people will remember it. It shows that you’re friendly and that you work well in an office environment. No matter how big or small your office is, make it a habit.

Internships are a big deal. Being an intern is a big deal. You were specifically chosen for a reason, so make sure you prove them right. You did or said something right during your interview that made your interviewer(s) want to offer you a position, so make sure you live up to that expectation. Whenever I work on a new project or have a new internship, my aunt always tells me to “Soak it up like a sponge.” Take everything that your internship offers you, and soak it in. There’s so much for you to learn, so make sure you take advantage of it, and be the best intern you can be. You have the potential; now, just put in the effort.

Emily Kong

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