50 tips for a successful internship

From applying to saying goodbye to your new colleagues, here’s what every intern needs to know about the process.


Good internships are difficult to get your hands on. Once you’ve secured one, it’s important to make the most of your short time in the company.

Whether you need help with interviews, networking with your new colleagues, or advice on expanding your workload, take a look at these tips to make sure you can be selected for, and take advantage of, a brilliant internship opportunity.

Applying

1. Check the websites of companies you are interested in.

2. Register with a few of the many internship agencies that can be found online.

3. Use any contacts you already have to find out about vacancies.

4. Don’t be afraid to send speculative applications to companies you’re interested in.

Once you’ve found or been sent an opportunity that interests you …

5. Look at the day-to-day tasks and development opportunities to ensure it will meet your requirements.

6. Send your résumé (or CV) to the company in an attempt to secure an interview.

7. Ensure your résumé is professional and tailored for the job for which you’re applying.

8. Ask someone to proofread your résumé —spelling mistakes are likely to lose you a job opportunity despite any relevant experience you may already have. (If you’re still at university you may have access to a careers service to help with your résumé.)

The Interview

9. Dress accordingly. If you’re not sure on the office culture, go smart.

10. Be polite at all times, saying please and thank-you goes a long way.

11. Prepare a few questions for your interviewer to show how interested you are in the company.

12. Re-visit the original advertisement for the interview to see the key qualities the interviewer will be looking for. This will enable you to pre-empt questions.

Preparation

It’s important to make sure you are well prepared for the first day.

13. Read up on the company you’ll be working for.

14. Check the company’s website for short bios of senior staff members and descriptions of departments, and research the company using online search engines.

15. Try to find out the dress code through website images or contacts you already have.

16. Think about your main objectives for the internship and how you’ll achieve them.

17. Treat the internship like a long interview if you want to be offered a permanent role. Strive to appear innovative and useful to the company.

18. Focus on networking and building a list of contacts if you just want an introduction to the industry.

First day

19. Remember that the first day, and probably the first week, will be a shock to the system.

20. Understand that being new in the office is always tough, but as long as you focus on working hard and being polite, you will soon fit into the team.

21. Use your introductory meeting with your supervisor to agree on the focus of your internship and the opportunities you’ll be given.

22. Try and go for coffee or have short meetings with the people you will be coming into contact with—this not only helps you to feel at home, but it will also give others the perception that you are approachable and eager to learn from them.

23. Attend as many meetings as possible to get exposure to the right people and issues.

During Your Internship

24. Don’t be afraid to ask as many questions as you need to; it’s always better to ask how to do something instead of doing it wrong.

25. Always ask for honest feedback from your colleagues and supervisor. You’re in an internship to learn; asking others to offer advice on your development points will help you to improve.

26. Be polite to everyone you work with. You never know what you might need from them next week.

27. Keep hard copies of feedback you receive and good work you do as an intern. It will be useful to return to once the internship is over.

28. Always take notes when you’re given instructions—it will help to prevent silly mistakes.

29. Don’t be downhearted if you feel some of the work you’re given is below your intelligence level. You still have to prove yourself and maintaining a good attitude at all times is important.

30. Be innovative. Look for opportunities to prove yourself as a useful asset to the company; this could be by designing a social networking page or reorganizing the filing system.

31. Produce a short presentation to show someone senior if you can get 15 minutes of that person’s time. Show him or her an idea you have for the company.

What if it goes wrong?

One such issue could be that you are stuck carrying out menial tasks without any opportunity to get involved in interesting projects. If this is the case …

32. Make it clear to your supervisor that you are happy to carry on with the work you have been given, but that you have spare capacity to help out with more challenging work.

33. Or alternatively, suggest projects you can be involved in.

If you’re trapped at your desk with no chance of networking …

34. Create your own opportunities by setting up meetings with people outside your team or management chain.

If it becomes clear early in your internship that no interns are ever offered permanent roles at the company …

35. Endeavor to ask senior staff why this is the case. The fact that you are attempting to rectify the situation will stand you out from others.

36. Committing an error during an internship can feel devastating, but everyone makes mistakes at work at some point in their career. If you do something wrong, notify your supervisor immediately and make it clear that you would like to solve the problem yourself. Owning up to your downfalls will make you are more reliable colleague and employee.

Before your internship ends

37. Book exit meetings with your supervisor and key contacts.

38. Get a written reference listing your achievements and take contact details of anyone you think could help you in your future career.

39. Thank colleagues who have offered time and advice.

40. Don’t forget to take a few cakes in for your last day in the office. Everybody loves cake.

41. Ask for feedback covering your whole internship and learning points that can help you develop in the future (this is the most important objective for your last few days).

42. Don’t ignore this feedback—use it to consider how you work in your next role and to book onto courses that will help you to develop.

Follow up

43. Write your own report of your internship; it will jog your memory if you need to think of useful experiences at work as examples for interviews in the future.

44. Keep in contact with someone particularly inspiring that you met during your placement; ask that person to be your mentor.

45. Keep in touch with other members of the team by email and ask them to let you know of any job opportunities or freelance work that might be coming up.

46. Use your contacts to keep your finger on the pulse of your chosen industry—this can be difficult once you return to the world of study or a job outside the area you’re aiming for.

47. Ask your supervisor for a written report that can be used as a quick job reference in the future.

And finally…

48. Never give up. Internships can be tough, especially for people who have not previously worked in an office.

49. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice from colleagues, your supervisor, and others outside work.

50. Try to relax and remain professional while milking your internship for all the development opportunities it offers. View it as a vocational learning experience.

Patrick Ross is a blogger who focuses his articles on young adults who are entering new careers. Check out this blog, PR internships. A version of this story first appeared on the blog PR at Sunrise.

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