An position should leave you with much more than just a bullet point on your resume. After all, you’re spending your valuable vacation time working for free, when you could be raking in the tips bar tending at your local watering hole.
Getting the max out of your position involves making a lasting impression on the people you work with. Sure, you’re mostly there to build your professional skills, but let’s be honest, a strong contact list is really the game changer when it comes to getting ahead.
1. Be Prepared
Don’t just pitch up on your first day not knowing a thing about your host company. If you want people to take you seriously, you’ve got to show that you’re genuinely interested in them, in what they do, and in what they can teach you. Do your research. Read through their website. Read through any articles you can find about them online. Research what their work entails and any tips to help you in your new job role.
2. Stay Polite & Professional No Matter What
You aren’t going to be there a long time, so people’s first impression of you matters even more. Joining in the office gossip, losing your patience, rocking up late to meetings, and flirting with the office manager are not the things you want to be remembered for. Keep your head in the game, and be kind to everyone, because manners and professionalism really do matter, especially in the end when you request a reference letter or want to put them as a reference on your resume.
3. Don’t Try Too Hard
That does not mean don’t “work hard” – that you should definitely do. I’m talking about sucking up to the boss, or anyone for that matter. It’s easy to fall into the trap of being a people pleaser when you’re the intern, but that doesn’t give you the opportunity to make an impression. Be real, be yourself. Share your unique ideas and opinions – that is what you want to be remembered for.
4. Go the Extra Mile
“Don’t try too hard” but definitely go the extra mile!It may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how few people are actually willing to do more than the minimum. Every day you should arrive ready to work and be willing to put in the time to complete your work on time and with excellence, this will show your commitment to the position for the experience, and not just for the sake of your resume. Be willing to work, and do the job well. Do more than is expected of you, and take initiative when you see there’s a need you can meet.
5. Mingle More
If you’ve got other interns in the office with you, it’s easy to just spend your lunch breaks with them, and not expand your circle. While they may be easier to relate to and make for better company, they generally can’t offer you what you came there for – an opportunity to meet key players in your field and grow your skills. Keep this in mind and aim to spark conversation with different people all the time. You can learn something from everyone.
6. Keep Social Media in it’s Place
Unless you are a social media marketing intern, you don’t want to be caught scrolling down your timeline during work hours. This is a big fail in terms of professionalism. That being said, you should definitely try to connect with colleagues on Linkedin or even on Facebook, IF your profile is appropriate for their eyes.
7. Put Your Phone Away
Even though everyone walks around with their phones in their hand, it is still unprofessional. Replying to messages, taking calls, or interrupting meetings because of your phone is a big no no. Even during your lunch break, or while waiting for a meeting to start, try leaving it in your bag and rather opting for real conversation and connection time with your colleagues.
8. Own up to Your Mistakes
You are learning, it’s inevitable that you’re going to make a mistake here and there. Don’t try to shift the blame, hope it goes unnoticed, or get defensive – own up to it, try to fix it and learn from it. Maybe your boss won’t be so happy if you made a huge mistake, but they will definitely respect and appreciate you responding properly to it.
9. Don’t Pretend to Know Things You Don’t
About those mistakes you are bound to make… you might as well try and avoid a few of them. You are there to learn and there is no shame in asking intelligent questions (unintelligent questions can be directed to your nearest web browser). You might be embarrassed to show gaps in your knowledge, but it’s better to get the job done properly the first time around.
10. Get That Letter & Stay in Touch
Don’t wait until your position is over to ask for your reference letter. You want your achievements to be fresh in their minds when they sit down to write it. Make sure you have your letter before your last day, once you’re out the door it’s a lot harder to get what you need – especially from busy people. You also want to make sure you give your boss or mentor adequate time to put thought into writing your letter, springing it on them on your last day won’t guarantee you a quality letter. Once you’ve said your goodbyes, be sure to stay in touch. Whether you email them a holiday greeting or communicate on social media, do your best to nurture those relationships and keep those connections alive.