How to Make the Most of an Internship

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Summer internships are a time for young adults to get real-life experience and learn about the possible career they may want to pursue. After my own experience interning in Washington, D.C. at the White House and an international human rights organization, I knew I wanted to pursue a public relations career in Washington, D.C.

The relationships I have maintained from my internships have led to many opportunities. Two of my current clients and four previous jobs are all a result of these connections. So since the intern season is upon us, here are some tips to leverage your own experiences immediately and in the future.

Be Willing to Learn.

An internship is all about learning so have an open mind. As an intern for a congressman, one of my jobs was to enter information into a database of constituents who wrote to him for help. Although I was doing data entry, I learned about all the services various government agencies can provide. This experience proved invaluable during one of my first jobs when I did advance work for the White House and communicated with many government agencies as it helped me understand the goals of the events we were planning.

How Can You Be Helpful?

As a supervisor, the interns and staff I remember most are the ones that go above and beyond and asked what else they could do to be helpful. When I was an intern at the White House, I was asked to type a script for the president quickly. That assignment led to the opportunity to go to the West Wing and see the script I had typed fed into a teleprompter for the president of the United States. Afterward, I even got to meet the president.

Ask for Feedback.

This might be one of the hardest things you can do as an intern but it’s also one of the most important. The more feedback you get, the more you can figure out your strengths and even improve your weaknesses. At the end of the internship, ask for a review. Your intern supervisor knows you want to learn and should be more than willing to give you feedback.

Make Connections and Maintain Them.

You never know where your fellow interns, managers and colleagues will end up. I have a motto: Be a Joiner. Most bonds from outside of the office- whether it’s through training, a volunteer event or grabbing drinks after work.  Get to know someone outside the office, as it will make all the difference.

Remember to leave on a positive note when your internship is over. Handwrite a thank you note to your colleagues (this always stands out more than emails and is memorable). Stay connected and engaged with your colleagues on LinkedIn and in-person if possible. And, when you are ready to start your job search, call your former supervisor for advice – if you left on a positive note and were a good intern, that person would be happy to help you out and possibly recommend you for a job too.

Laura Gross (@lgross) is president and founder of Scott Circle Communications (@scottcircle), a Washington, D.C. based public relations firm working with mission-driven clients.


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