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How To: Be an Awesome Intern in 6 Easy Steps

happy intern

Congratulations on getting your internship! By now, you’ve already had your first day “on the job.” Is it what you expected?

Let’s face it. Internships can be fun, taxing, and bewildering. This is normal. Everyone goes through that so don’t quit just yet! Don’t even think about quitting. You worked hard to get here and now you need to work hard to conquer the challenge before you. Here are a few tips to help take you from bewilderment to awesome.

1. Show up.

This should be a no-brainer but you’d be surprised how many people decide that sleep is more important than their economic future. If you want to succeed, make an investment in your future career by going to bed early, setting the alarm, and dragging yourself out of bed. Squeeze in a shower and breakfast and the world will thank you. Coming in with your coffee mug in a death grip and an empty bottle of “5 Hour Energy” will not mark you as a serious professional. As the song goes, put a smile on your face and make the world a better place.

2. Dress up.

Internships are no place for sweatpants, Uggs, or ripped jeans. Find out what the dress code is at the place you are interning and stick with it. You can be creative but don’t try extreme fashion. You are there to learn job skills, not work on your style palate. Unless you are interning for a fashion magazine. Then you can wear whatever you want. But that’s a different story altogether.

3. Turn off your cell phone.

Don’t believe me? Listen to a lawyer discuss it. Employers can fire people for using Facebook, Twitter, or other social media sites during work hours. There are laws being proposed about social media use at work. Don’t risk your future for Farmville.

4. Don’t get uppity.

You are an intern. You are there to learn. Your place is at the bottom of the pecking order. Don’t even try bossing employees around. Making comments about the degradation of being an intern, the trials you face, or the workload isn’t going to endear you to anyone. And no, you can’t have an assistant. Internships mean long hours, hard work, and building your experience. If you aren’t ready to face that, you shouldn’t be an intern. Make friends at the office but steer clear of the gossip circles. Drama is only fun on TV.

5. Wait to be friends.

Your first day on the job isn’t the time to add everyone on Facebook. This is an internship, not a social club. The same goes for LinkedIn. Wait until you’ve learned more about the people at your workplace before going friend-crazy. Don’t ask for recommendations on LinkedIn until after you have proven yourself.

6. Document everything.  

Every week, write down what you learned. Build a portfolio of the projects you worked on, your role, and the hours you spent on it. If it’s something you can take pictures of, do that. You want to be able to show future employers what you can do. By the end of your internship, you should be able to prove that you can do serious work.

After you are done with your internship, look back with pride over all you learned. Smile at the good days and the bad days. You’ll have both. Hopefully, you’ll have learned quite a bit. Maybe you learned that the job field you thought was perfect really wasn’t your thing. Great! Now you know. Or maybe you learned that you thrive on deadlines and challenges. Perfect! Internships are never wasted if you take the time to look over them.

One last note…don’t forget those letters of recommendation. They will help carry you far!

What do you think defines an “awesome intern”? What was your internship experience like? Leave us a comment!

Caitlin Anderson
Caitlin Anderson

Caitlin Anderson believes in finding the extraordinary in the ordinary. A former CollegePlus employee, she now works as Lois Lane for a major tech company. She lives in Portland with her husband and their puppy.

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