If you land the right kind of internship, you are treated as though you're an entry level worker. You have actual work to do, time lines, clients, and so forth. You are not in a college classroom and you aren't just the extra help to run errands or make coffee. Think of yourself as a professional, albeit a young and less experienced one. I was asked, "How do I rock my internship, Sam? What do you do that people give you glowing references?" I'm going to give you the basics of what you should do while in your position to become the rock star intern and maybe even be offered a position when your internship is over.
- Be Punctual and Enthusiastic- Have you ever heard the phrase saying, "If you're 5 minutes early, you're on time. If you're on time, you're late?" That's the motto to live by. Showing up a few minutes early allows you to settle in and actually begin your work on time. It shows you mean business and care about the quality of your work. Granted, if you're commuting in farther than you can walk, there will be times where you are late due to trains running behind schedule, a major accident, weather, or what have you. That's okay, everyone has to deal with it at some point. The best way to handle a situation in which you might be late is to email or call your supervisor as soon as you notice the time issue and explain what is going on. You are being both responsible and considerate in doing so, and it speaks volumes on your character and works in your favor. Also, a ready to go and positive attitude makes people want to work with you. Do you want to work with a person who is always saying, "I'm ready, let's get it done," or a person who has a dark cloud around them and looks as if they would rather be anywhere but with you? Even if you hate what you are doing, we all have work we don't like so get used to it, put on a smile and have a positive outlook.
- Pay Attention to Detail- No matter what field you are in, attention to detail is important. Whether you are ensuring all your numbers on the financial reports you pulled are correct or if you used the correct "their" in your press release, the little things matter in a big way. Many times the work you are given doesn't have enough time to go through your supervisor's hands so they can look through it with a fine tooth comb. They hired you because they believe you are capable and expect you to be able to notice if you made an error before you submit your work or it becomes an issue.
- Take Feedback and Grow- Feedback won't always be positive, sometimes you really don't do something well and that's okay. Listen to what your supervisor or someone who is taking the time to go over what you didn't do so well and how to fix it. Part of an internship is the growth of you as a professional. You are to be molded and cultured in the field in real time to take what you've learned in class and realize how it fits in with the real world. If you are confused about the feedback, ask questions to clarify what is being said so you can use it to better yourself.
- Have a Sense of Humor- No one likes to work with someone who can't take a joke and is too serious all of the time. Work humor in most places is part of the culture and encouraged because if you are happy where you are, you're more than willing to give 110% of yourself to the task you are assigned. Work humor also comes with a big warning label. Keep things light like making a joke about your cooking skills but avoid crude or sexual humor in the office. It just isn't professional and is better kept outside and away from your superiors and peers.
- Dress for Success- There are many people who like to say, "what you wear doesn't matter as long as you do good work." Ignore those people because I'm here to tell you what you look like is important for both you and those you work with. When you show up looking professional and neat, you feel good about yourself which usually leads to confidence and bleeds over into your work in a positive way. For those you work with, dressing for success shows you have proper office etiquette and care about your appearance which usually means you take pride in yourself and translates in a positive way to the kind of work they expect of you.