how to make the most of your internship

A sea of college students are preparing to start summer internships, which are a crucial way to get much-needed experience before graduation. But simply having an internship isn’t enough; you also need to impress your employer, form solid relationships with your co-workers, and pay attention to what’s happening around you.

Over at U.S. News & World Report today, I talk about how to get the most out of your internship. You can read it here.

{ 6 comments… read them below }

  1. Tax Nerd

    Here’s some advice I wish I could give all interns. Most of it applies more to accounting, but hopefully most of it is applicable to other fields:

    * Dress appropriately. Err on the side of conservative until you figure out the dress code (written and not). For women in particular – short skirts, cleavage, hooker heels, spaghetti straps, and bare midriffs are probably not okay unless you’re interning at a fashion magazine. Scratch that, unless you’re modelling for a fashion magazine. Dress like the kind of professional who gets paid for their mind. Do not revert to college/partywear at after hours events – you will be judged on whether you can seem respectable outside of the office and after a drink or two (if you are of age).
    * Get to know people up the chain from you, and impress them. Not with tales of beer pong, but with your industriousness, thoughtful questions, and good attitude.
    * Ask questions! This lets the people above you know what you don’t know. More importantly, it signals to them that you are aware that you don’t know everything yet.
    * Draw some boundaries. Don’t “friend” your coworkers and manager on Facebook. Use LinkedIn instead. Facebook is for people at your level only, and I would personally suggest that you not even do that, but this advice tends to fall on deaf ears. (It becomes a problem when years later you and another person you interned with are both up for promotion, and you remember all the Facebook whining one of you did about the job.) Also, do not attempt to date your coworkers, but if you do end up in a relationship, keep it out of the workplace completely. No one wants the drama, and you both will be forever tainted for confusing the workplace with a dating pool.
    *Ask for work if you need some. Ask in person, and work your way up the food chain (unless your industry does it differently). If there’s nothing for you yet, find some online tutorials having to do with your field. Don’t just gchat with your buddies about how bored you are.
    *Don’t complain. If you have to get lunch for everyone or scan a bunch of stuff, do so without complaint.
    *Leave your parents at home. Even if they tend towards being helicopter pilots, don’t have them call your boss because you didn’t like something. Don’t admit that you still have your parents’ accountant do your tax return. Don’t bring one of your parents as your +1 to a company outing.

    1. AD

      I’ll add a few:

      — Carry a note pad to meetings and take notes as needed.

      — Don’t worry about how the other interns perceive you if you become the “boss’s pet”. You want to be on good terms with everyone, but socializing is NOT your first priority.

      –Keep your ears out for projects, even tiny things, that can be done. For example, if you hear people complaining all of the time about how nobody wants to update the stupid company blog or something, you then volunteer to do that.

    2. Lexy

      Really good advice Tax Nerd, thoughtful questions is especially important.

      I must quibble with one tiny part of one of your (great) points though…

      What’s wrong with having your parents’ accountant do your tax return? My husband and I are in our 30’s with a small business and we have the same CPA as his parents… he came to our wedding and is a great accountant as well as family friend, why replace him just so we can have a different CPA?

      1. Lizzie B

        Lexy, I think Tax Nerd was suggesting that if you’re 23, make $20,000 a year, and use Form 1040EZ, your tax situation simple enough — and you should be self-sufficient enough and a good enough problem-solver — to file your taxes yourself.
        If you send your taxes for your parents’ accountant to do, that implies not only that your parents pay for the service, and probably many other of your financial needs as well, but that you have no idea how basic personal finance principles work, and probably do not assume responsibility for other areas of your life either.

        1. Tax Nerd

          Lizzie B nailed it.

          It may also be a particularly sticky issue when you’re in the business of preparing tax returns. Not being able/willing/interested enough to do your own doesn’t send out reassuring signals to your supervisors, much less clients.

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