If you are presented with the opportunity to complete an internship, take it. GPA and extra-curricular involvement is vital to prepare for a career, however nothing quite tops hands-on experience. Once you pursue this opportunity, it’s up to you to make the most out of it. From being a summer intern in D.C. at a non-profit organization, I learned more than I could imagine – however, these are ten lessons that helped me the most.
1) Lose the intern mentality
It is easy to hold yourself back when you think of yourself as “only an intern.” Be confident in your work knowing that you bring value to the organization. You were chosen over all other applicants, so prove that they made the right choice.
2) If you want something, ask for it
No one is going to hold your hand or guide your every step. If you want new opportunity, don’t be afraid to pitch an idea to your supervisor. The worst that you can be told is no. Even if this is the case, you showed confidence and initiative – both of which reflect positively. You won’t know if you don’t ask.
3) Show initiative beginning on the first day
One of my biggest regrets as an intern is waiting to seek out opportunity. I was most successful when I challenged myself and completed a plethora of new projects. Beginning on the first day, get a feel for what opportunities there are aside from your daily tasks.
4) Dress for the part
Looks aren’t everything, but they do count for something. If you’re unsure of the dress code, don’t be afraid to ask. However, it’s always better to be overdressed rather than underdressed. Create your wardrobe based on how you want to be seen. Aim for professionalism but don’t be afraid to show your own personal style as well.
5) Finding a mentor in the workplace is vital
If you admire someone in your workplace and aspire to be in their shoes someday, ask them to grab coffee or lunch sometime. Treat this as an opportunity to receive useful career advice and insight. Create a list of questions you’d like to ask them and they will most likely be happy to answer. Remember that they have been in your shoes once as well. Also ask for tips and critiques on your work when they are not too busy. Something to keep in mind as an intern is to always be respectful of others’ time – people are busy and have full schedules!
6) Show up early and leave late
There were many days during my internship that I was the first to arrive and the last to leave. Trust me – this does not go unnoticed. When others witness you working diligently, you will gain respect and credibility. You will not just be “the intern.” They will know that you bring something to the team and are truly dedicated.
7) Leave your comfort zone
Growth begins at the end of your comfort zone. Do not choose comfort over new opportunity. Feeling uncomfortable is actually a good thing in the work place and where I’ve grown the most in my career. Learn to take risks and grab new opportunity where you can.
8) Knowledge is power
The absolute best way to impress people in the workplace is with knowledge. Don’t allow people to look down on you because of your age. Instead, use it to your advantage. Impress others by contributing to challenging conversations. This is not to say that power should be you end goal. However, more knowledge opens the door for more work opportunities and assignments.