Six Ways to Start Off on the Right Foot at Your Summer Internship

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Early mornings, long days, quick lunch breaks and a whole slew of other things you didn’t expect. That’s right; you’re an intern now and no longer can you strategically schedule your classes so you don’t have to get up until noon.

Internships come in all shapes and sizes. In other words, all internships are different. Some internships are full time while some are part time. At some internships, you might work 10-hour days, while others only need you for three to five hours. You might be interning at a local business right down the street, or you might be traveling across the country or beyond to live and work in a foreign city.

Regardless, if there’s anything I’ve learned from the 10 or so internships I’ve had so far in my college career; it’s that you get entirely different experiences from every place you work. Most importantly, you gain something from each and every organization you work for, every team you work with and every supervisor you work under. Here are six tips on how to get a good start at your internship this summer to maximize your professional experience:

1.  Make a good first impression.
You have about seven seconds to make it or break it, according to an article by Business Insider. This is a classic, textbook rule, but it can oftentimes be more challenging than expected. Arrive early, dress snazzier than the job you are there for, have a confident and assertive handshake, be sure to smile and make sure your elevator speech is on point. Look the part, play the part and soon you’ll find that you are the part.

2.  Introduce yourself to just about everyone.
Repeat step one about 1,500 times. Just kidding!  But in all seriousness, the more people you meet, the more of a connection you are likely to make to the company or organization as a whole over time. Start memorizing names and a thing or two about each person to possibly bring up in conversation later. The more people you know, the more you learn, the more you grow and the more you fit into the culture of the company or organization.

3.  Develop a connection with your boss.
Producing high-quality work in an efficient manner is paramount, but those “extra” personal connections can take you from being “just an intern” to an actual member of the team. Your boss is the one you are likely going to be working with the most, so that’s obviously not a bad place to start. Stay professional and malleable to the new and unfamiliar work environment. Act intuitively to pick up on the office dynamics and general atmosphere to see what is customary, acceptable, risqué, etc. in all facets of the department.

However, at the same time, you have to differentiate yourself by showing a little bit of personality more and more over time to break that surface-level work relationship. Be yourself, of course, but be someone who you would want to work with. Slowly but surely, your supervisor can evolve from just being your “boss” and end up being a mentor and possibly even a friend.

4.  Don’t let yourself get bored.
Assignments come and go, and at times, you might find yourself with an empty work plate. It can sometimes be effective to pause and reload, but sitting around the rest of the day twiddling your thumbs and posting selfies on Instagram isn’t getting you anywhere. Show some initiative.

Those people you introduced yourself to earlier? Make your rounds and ask employees in your department if you can somehow help out or pick up a task. You have to prove your worth, and submitting high-quality work from projects you sought out shows just that. In essence, demonstrate that you can be a valuable asset to the team from the beginning because those smaller start-up assignments can turn into more legitimate portfolio builders later on.

5.  Stay “Beyoncé fierce.”
Take chances, try new things and challenge yourself. Queen B herself likes to change it up and be her own “irreplaceable” self.  Granted, she “woke up like this” so I’ve heard, but still, internships are excellent gateways to becoming seasoned professionals because you are exposed to so much in an abbreviated amount of time that you otherwise would never have experienced in a classroom.

It’s kind of like bowling with the gutter rails up. If you act professional, respectful, “flawless” and you display evident self-motivation, you are likely going to be working on some kind of legitimate professional work. The key is you have some guidance, some assistance and some leeway to ask questions and learn as you go. Try to test yourself while utilizing the resources around you to gain more responsibilities over time. Employers will certainly take note of that, and who knows — they could end up being “crazy in love” with having you around.

6.  Actually BE “that coffee guy.” Well, metaphorically speaking.
Don’t legitimately go out every single morning taking orders on who wants the grande white chocolate mocha and who wants the venti low-fat iced coffee with two shots of espresso. Instead, prove that you care. Show that you are appreciative for every new learning experience you are given, no matter how big or how small. Show that you’re grateful to have even been given the opportunity to be with the company or organization in the first place.

I’ve learned generosity and sincerity go a long way in the workplace. Just like the office “coffee guy,” don’t take your job for granted; take a step back to see just how much this internship can help you in the long run to either secure a full-time position later on or serve as a launching pad to the next opportunity or perhaps even your dream job.


Adam Piccin is a senior at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio, studying public relations and health communication. He is immediate past president of the Otterbein PRSSA Chapter, and served on the PRSSA National diversity & ethics subcommittee. Piccin will be working as a full-time marketing communications assistant at Bricker & Eckler LLP in downtown Columbus, Ohio, this summer. More information on Piccin can be found on his website. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @adampiccin, or connect with him on LinkedIn or by email.

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