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How to be a Successful Intern

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, what kind of employee you could be, what jobs interest you and what don’t.

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

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

The most important thing for you to do is to ask questions. No matter what, you’re an intern. You’re a pre-professional in a professional environment so there’s 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 rather than having 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 100 percent appreciate any questions you ask. It 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 half done or half done poorly because you wanted to turn it in on time. If you’re struggling to meet a deadline, let them know a few days before it’s 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’ll take a few trial and error sessions, but eventually you will find your groove and work well together.

If you complete your work early and have no more tasks to do, ask for more. My current supervisor told me 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 will do any task because I constantly asked her if she needed any help. Who cares if it’s a maniacal task like organizing a desk or making copies, they will appreciate it and take notice.

Something I started doing recently is taking notes while having one-on-one meetings with my supervisor. 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 they say, 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 because if you can’t remember a specific dimension that they wanted you to use for a graphic, you’ll have it in your notes, instead of having to email or pop into their office. Not only will it save you time, but it will save them time as well.

Make it a habit to say hello/good morning to people when you get into the office. Same goes with a good bye/good afternoon/good evening when you leave. It seems like such a little detail, but again, people will remember it. Not only does it show that you’re friendly, but also 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 to make them 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, “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, 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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