An internship can be so much more than just a line to include on your resume. If you work hard and make a good impression, you can learn skills and make connections that can launch your career.
One of the keys to a successful internship is the ability to communicate with your boss. You need to be comfortable asking questions and also asking for new assignments. Good communication skills were stressed by intern supervisors from Buzzfeed, LinkedIn, Dell and other companies who took part in a recent panel discussion in New York moderated by internqueen.com founder Lauren Berger.
Here are some of the top tips for successful internships from the panelists:
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Employers do not expect you to know everything. When they ask if you have any questions, they’re not trying to trick you! They actually want you to ask for clarification if anything’s unclear, so you can do a better job.
Asking questions shows that you’re engaged in what you are doing. Gabby Cristofano of Digitos mentioned that nothing frustrates an employer more than when an intern works on a task all day but doesn’t complete the project because he was too afraid to ask how to do something.
In addition, don’t be afraid to make suggestions. If you feel that you can make an improvement to your assigned tasks, tell your employer. He or she will appreciate your dedication and initiative.
- Constantly remind your employer of your name.
Believe it or not, it is not your boss’s job to learn your name. In some companies, many interns work under the same boss or team. To stand out from the pack, be sure to remind your supervisor — and everyone you’re working with — of your name. It may help you to stay top of mind when there’s a new task to assign. And it may benefit you after the internship as well. Lea Goldman, executive editor of Marie Claire magazine, recalled receiving a thank-you note from one of her interns at the end of the summer. While it’s always a good idea to send a note, this one had little impact, Goldman said, because she had no idea who the intern was — since she had never introduced herself!
- Master the tasks they give you, then ask for more.
Everything you do while on the job is important. Don’t expect to start out with the most advanced tasks. The best strategy is to master the simple tasks and then ask for something more challenging. The key word here is “ask.” You will never get any further in your internship if you’re unable to communicate with your boss. Play your cards right, and you will eventually get tasks more suited to an entry-level employee than an intern.
- Be enthusiastic!
Is filing papers your idea of excitement? Probably not. But it’s important for interns to have a positive attitude about every assignment. Your boss wants to see that you are enjoying what you’re doing. This will make him or her more willing to help you. Even if you’re not enjoying your internship, it’s still important to put on a positive face and show that you have a good work ethic. You never know what could come out of the experience.
- Keep in touch.
There’s always a chance that your current internship could open the door to your next amazing experience — whether it is your next internship or your first real job. At the end of an internship, be sure to send thank-you notes to supervisors. Another good idea: Send your boss an email every now and then to let him or her know what you’re up to. You may get a response about a great job contact or an invitation to a company event. Additionally, if you’re interested in going back the following summer, tell them. They will never know you’re interested if you don’t tell them.
Bonus Tip: Use LinkedIn!
It’s never too early to start networking on LinkedIn.com. Grier Potter, of LinkedIn, explained that your profile on the site acts as an online resume. Employers look on LinkedIn for job candidates with certain skill sets. Having a LinkedIn account is a great way to begin a professional profile that can take you from your first internship to CEO.
By ELIZA TALMADGE