Last summer, I interned at a company that will remain unnamed in New York City with a number of other college sophomores and juniors, and a couple recent graduates. However, one of our fellow interns was about five years our senior- she had graduated college years ago and had continued to hold over ten internships –– never securing a permanent position. After working with her a few weeks I quickly understood why. She would interrupt coworkers, was not a contributing group member on projects, and was competitive with other interns, not collaborative. After spending a summer working with the “eternal intern,” I definitely picked up a couple of tips about how to behave appropriately in an internship and have them begging you to come back after graduation…
1) Always be Early
While it kind of goes without saying that any job will expect you to show up on time and ready to work, it is of the UTMOST importance to on time, if not early, to each day of work. As an intern, you are in training for a career in a certain field one day. As such, you should be respectful and prompt and clearly show your employer that you are eager and excited to have the opportunity to learn more about an industry that highly interests you. If you show up late to work, meetings, or delay in sending emails, you are sending the message that your time is more important than your employer’s time – an honestly, as in intern, its not.
2) Dress Appropriately
Employers like to see that you are a “good fit” for their company and that you would fit in the company environment if you returned for a full time position. If you are working in arts, fashion, communications, or even tech, your dress code may be a little more lax. If you’re working in finance, in government, or in a formal office environment, business formal is likely the norm. Make sure your hair is groomed, your fingernails aren’t too crazy a color and your heels aren’t too high. (You want to look like you’re going to the office and not the club, even if you are working at a trendy workplace).
3) Do Good -No, Great- Work
Everybody is looking for a job these days, and as a result, employers usually have a number of qualified applicants to choose from. If you are given a project at your internship, be sure to ask clarifying questions, do your research, and ask for early feedback to ensure you will have finished the project to the best of your ability come the end of the summer. If you feel that you’re not being challenged at your internship, speak with your immediate supervisor and see if there is any additional work that you could take on. Being eager to do take on additional work shows that you are disciplined and a hard worker.
4) “Optional” means Mandatory
If there are any “optional” speaker series, meetings, outings, field trips, or conferences offered over the course of the summer by your employer, I highly recommend that you attend all of them with enthusiasm if you want to work for your internship full time. A company wants to know that you like them before they extend an offer (kind of like dating..?) and will be more likely to invite you to return if they know you’ll say yes. Nobody likes rejection.
Good luck getting those last minute internship apps in, or getting pumped for the summer ahead if you already know your summer internship or travel plans!
— Kylie Thompson, Harvard University