Your internship experience is one of the most important pieces of the foundation you are laying for a successful career. Since the professional world can be very different from university life, it is important that you have an understanding of some of the differences. Use these tips to help you make the most of this valuable experience.
- Clarify expectations about the internship: both the employers and yours. It is a good idea to agree upon your job responsibilities in writing.
- Take advantage of the transition time at the beginning of your internship and ask lots of questions. You are not expected to know what is going on right away, but the faster you learn the ins and outs of daily life on the job, the better off you’ll be.
- Meet regularly with your supervisor to ensure that both of your expectations are being met. This is a good way for you to get feedback on your performance and helps to keep you on track with current and future assignments.
- First impressions are very important, as is maintaining good ones. It is important for you to dress, speak, write, and generally behave like a professional. Shake hands, make eye contact, smile, and be friendly and confident.
- Be observant and ask questions about appropriate behavior at the work place. Different organizations have different expectations regarding employee behavior and it is important that you learn about and conform to the corporate culture. This can include issues such as appropriate clothing, demeanor with customers, personal phone calls, and where to park your car. If you aren’t sure if it’s OK to eat the donuts in the company kitchen, ask first. When in doubt, err on the conservative side.
- Focus on your communication skills, both written and verbal. Proofread your written work carefully. When communicating with your coworkers choose respectful, tactful, and professional language at all times.
- Show up to work on time, when you are expected. Call if you are going to be sick or late. Don’t be sick or late often. Choose your sick days with care; it will be noticed if you are not at work on important days.
- Establish good relationships with your coworkers. Be friendly, polite, helpful, and sensitive. It’s good to talk with your coworkers and get to know them but beware of gossiping and complaining. Be careful about bringing personal business to work, and be sure that what you do discuss is fit for public consumption.
- Be easy to work with. Accept assignments without complaint, ask for more work when assignments are completed, and turn out good quality work. Listen carefully to instructions and ask for clarification. Learn to work as a team; be respectful of input from other team members and practice the art of compromising.
- When you leave, be sure to ask your supervisor for a letter of recommendation and keep in touch so that you can call upon him/her later when you are in need of a reference. This will also help your supervisor keep you in mind when future opportunities arise.