Five Most Important Things You Should Do as an Intern

Image by Samuel Mann, Flickr

Image by Samuel Mann, Flickr

Brace yourselves, because the internships are coming! We all know it’s a jungle out there and most of you are confused about what to do when preparing for your first intern position. But, as always, we are here to help with that.

This article will take you by the hand to show you the most important things you should have in mind when undergoing an internship.

Before we present the most popular internship tips from top companies, let’s take a little respite and talk about why someone would want to apply for such a position in the first place.

One of the essential reasons why many people choose to apply for an internship at a company is because they have no idea where they stand career-wise. It would be an understatement to say that choosing your career is a harsh and nerve-consuming process. This is why it is imperative to know what to look for and what industries or departments are best suited for your particular skillset.

Let’s say you’re dying to work at Ikea, but you’re not quite sure what position you might be suited for. This is where an internship comes in. If you’ve researched all the best options to get your foot in the door and discovered that you’re not yet qualified for any of their job openings, you can try your luck with an internship position and get better insight on the exact area where you might contribute.

Performing a three-month internship helps you discover a company’s internal structure, find out what each department does and gives you a better perspective on the type of position you might be suited for in the long run.

Furthermore, this type of experience will look great on your resume and could give you a major career boost when trying to secure a full-time job.

Now, without further ado, here are the five best tips suited for interns.

1. Make it a learning experience

Before starting out on your first day as an intern, make sure to find out everything there is to know about the company’s profile and activity. Search for all available information regarding their values and objectives, their products or services, the organizational culture and the methods they use to promote themselves.

Regardless of the department where you will be interning, this will help you make a positive impression on your supervisor and also help you come up with an accurate approach for the tasks that you will be performing.

Make sure to constantly ask questions and keep learning throughout your entire internship, as this will serve you greatly not only in your activity as an intern, but also later on, when you will be securing a full-time position.

2. Organize your tasks

As a newbie, you’ll probably have a rough time adjusting to your position’s requirements. Every so often, many employers have come to realize that interns quit after a brief period of time because they feel like their workload is overwhelming.

Probably the most sound advice anyone can give you is to learn how to prioritize your tasks. Prioritization doesn’t mean that you will leave something for later and eventually forget the whole deal. Use the spare time you have to review your tasks.

It would also be a good idea to keep a planner nearby. If you’re not the pen and paper type, then you can use a mobile tool. Start with the urgent tasks or with the hard ones, leaving the easy ones for later.

On the subject of planning ahead, you should also ask your supervisor about the deadlines of each project. For example, if a simple project has a distant deadline, you can leave it aside for now and focus on other projects.

Bear in mind that the ability to prioritize is one of the things your employer uses for your evaluation. Acing this one will definitely increase your chances of staying in the company.

Also, keep in mind that your employer wants to see how you work under stress. There are things you could try to relieve some of the pressure felt at work.

3. Dress for success

Bear in mind that the company has a code for everything, including for how you dress. So, if you decide to show up for work wearing flip-flops or a heavy cleavage, you’ll probably transmit a signal that you’re not serious about the commitment.

Research the company’s policy in this regard, but also look around the office to see how people are dressing for the job. If it’s the type of company where everyone is wearing T-shirts and jeans, then you’re probably not going to want to show up for work in a corporate suit and a red necktie. Make an effort to blend in with the rest of the crowd, without necessarily losing your personal style.

4. Ask for a clear list of responsibilities

Most of the time interns are there to help full-time employees. It’s probably a bad idea to dream about ample projects or responsibilities. Bear in mind that as an intern you will probably have to perform menial tasks like photocopying documents, fetching files and even making coffee for the CEO.

Whatever your tasks may be, just be sure to have a clear idea on what is required of you and leave very little room for doubts or vagueness in this regard. If you are unsure about a specific instruction, ask your direct supervisor for further clarification. He/she might be busy with more pressing issues, but at the end of the day, they will look favorably upon your discipline and your sense of responsibility.

5. Ask for feedback

From time to time, ask your employer for feedback. Ask him/her about where you stand, how you fared so far and if there is any room for improvement. Expect some constructive criticism from him or her.

Don’t be discouraged if your employer said that your performance was poor. Instead, look for intelligent ways to improve your work. You might try asking you co-workers for help if you can’t find a satisfactory solution by yourself.

Keep in mind that they also have work to do, so, it will probably be a good idea not to assault them with too many questions.

One last thing: keep in mind that each feedback can impact us in different ways. There are many studies out there who proved that there is indeed a link between intern feedback and overall productivity.

For someone who has just stepped out of university and has no real work experience, an internship can be a challenging and rather daunting notion. The learning process may not be easy – it might even be a competitive environment – but as long as you follow the five tips outlined in this article, you will stand a very good chance of landing a favorable review or – fingers crossed – an offer to join the company full-time.

This article was contributed by guest author Amanda Wilks.

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