By Deborah Federico for Vault Career Intelligence
Every year, a panel of seniors gives advice to underclassmen at Boston University’s School of Management on the topic of how to be successful in an internship. One senior, at a recent event, described an internship as a kind of summer-long interview. Everything you do during your internship will be closely monitored by your supervisors and co-workers to determine both if you are competent and a good fit for the company.
Based on what I have heard seniors say, and what I’ve heard managers say are the key characteristics of a good intern, I have created the following guidelines for rocking your internship. Congratulations on landing that summer internship. Now comes the hard part.
Social Media Mores
You may be dying to find out who posted on your wall or see who just texted you, but don’t log into Facebook and don’t take out your cell phone until you know what the office policy is. Some companies forbid using the internet for personal reasons. Also, never post anything negative about your internship or employer on any social media site–ever! Not even things like, “Had an awful day at work today.” If you do post about your internship, keep it positive: “Awesome day at work. Learning so much!” Learn from the Twitter goofs by these employees who were axed for their inappropriate tweets.
Should you “friend” your boss or your coworkers on Facebook? Many students ask me this question. In general, I say no. Of course, every situation is different. A good alternative would be to connect with them on LinkedIn.
Can do and will do
Eagerly do whatever is asked of you, including making copies, getting the coffee or answering the phone. Prove to management that you can do these menial tasks with a smile and you’ll be seen as a cooperative team player. At a recent internship panel, a student shared that he was asked to get coffee by his boss. No problem! he thought. By cheerfully getting coffee for his boss, his boss soon returned the favor.
There was another student interning on Wall Street who spoke of how he had to put together 40 binders at midnight for a client presentation the following morning. Not only that, he also had to find a way to get them to the hotel where the presentation was taking place, and by 6:00 AM. Well, he was able to get the binders there by 4:00 AM. His manager was quite impressed with his attitude of doing whatever it takes to get the job done, and he offered him a full-time job.
Students will tell me that they were afraid to ask questions for fear of admitting ignorance. Think of it this way: It’s much better to ask questions than do something wrong or waste time trying to figure things out on your own. Companies don’t expect interns to know everything. If you did, you wouldn’t be an intern!
If you finish your assignments early and have nothing to do, don’t just sit there. Go find something to do—an assignment, a project, something. Approach your direct supervisor. If he or she doesn’t have anything for you at the moment, ask to do a project for someone else in the office. Many overworked employees would readily welcome the assistance of an eager intern—and you’ll be earning lots of kudos from the staff.
Find ways to impress
Go above and beyond what is required of you. Give 100 percent in everything that you do. Make a note of any measurable accomplishments you achieve along the way, then be sure to include them on your resume. Be on the lookout for new, creative, cost-effective ways to do things. As an intern, you bring a fresh perspective and may readily find solutions to problems that full-time employees can’t see. The ability to problem-solve is a key skill that employers are looking for in full-time hires. So if you can hone this skill during your internship, you’ll be able to highlight it on your resume and in your future interviews.
Meet, talk, connect
Get to know as many people as possible during your internship and conduct informational interviews with people who are doing the jobs that you would like to do. As I mentioned above, you probably don’t want to friend your co-workers or supervisor on Facebook, but LinkedIn is the perfect place for you to connect with them. Make sure to stay in touch with these people throughout your senior year and in the future.
A grand exit
Some companies have a formal evaluation process for interns. If your company doesn’t, you should ask for one. You will impress your supervisor with your proactive approach and your openness to receiving constructive feedback.
Make sure to update your resume with your internship details while it is fresh in your mind. Remember to make note of any key accomplishments you achieved, problems you solved or ways you make an impact. Many students will see me after the summer so I can review what they have written about their internships. I would recommend that you do the same with your career counselor, especially if you are a senior who needs to gear up for fall recruiting.
Deborah Federico is an Assistant Director of Undergraduate Career Services in the School of Management at Boston University. Prior to her career in higher education, Deborah worked in the corporate world, primarily doing marketing and market research. She blogs about career advice here and her LinkedIn profile is here.
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