Sarah Steenrod, Director, Undergraduate Career Consultation and Programs, Fisher College of Business, The Ohio State University
While it seems like just yesterday (OK, more like 13 years ago) since I was an intern at Neiman Marcus in Las Vegas, the lessons I learned and experiences I had during that pivotal time in my college and professional career are crystal clear. My personal experience, coupled with nearly 10 years of experience supporting college students in pursuit of their careers, reminds me that it never hurts to offer some tips on how to make the most of the summer internship. So, here are tips you can give your students (in no particular order)…
- Set goals. Both personal and professional goals can help you make the most of your summer, help you stay on track, and know if you have achieved what you set out to do.
- Ask questions. An internship is a learning process and you may need to seek clarification along the way.
- Participate in all intern and company activities that you are invited to. It’s a great way to meet fellow interns and people at the company who are investing their time in your experience.
- Share your ideas. People want to know what you think, so speak up!
- If you finish your work, ask for more. By taking initiative, you may end up with an awesome project or learning experience.
- Pack your lunch. You’ll save money and calories. It’s absolutely fine to join your colleagues and treat yourself to lunch every once in a while, but you will thank yourself at the end of the summer if you didn’t blow your paychecks on takeout sushi.
- Dress for the job you want, not the one you have. Always be sure to follow the dress code and make sure your clothes are clean, neat, and pressed.
- Get a good night’s rest. If you’re used to going to bed at 2 a.m., the sound of the alarm at 6 a.m. is going to be a rude awakening (literally and figuratively). No one at your workplace will care if you’re tired, so don’t look or act tired.
- Consider your internship a three-month interview. This is your opportunity to make the most of each day with the potential of getting a job offer at the end.
- Ask people if you can be of help to them. You might think you don’t have a lot to offer, but perhaps one of your colleagues has a child that is considering your university and would love to hear your perspective.
- Explore the city…and the food. If you’re in Cleveland, don’t miss the West Side Market and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. St. Louis is famous for fried ravioli. In Houston, be sure to try the BBQ.
- Exercise. Take a brisk walk, ride a bike, run, do yoga! Do whatever you like, just get moving!
- Drink water. That’s what the water coolers are for! Eight 8-ounce glasses day is what’s recommended, but if that sounds like a lot, just start with a couple glasses a day. It also helps to get a water bottle that you really like.
- If you make a mistake, acknowledge it, find a way to fix it, and move on. Don’t make excuses.
- Connect with alumni from your school. Use your university’s alumni club. Tap into the LinkedIn Find Alumni tool.
- Check in regularly with your parents, family members, and friends and let them know how your internship is going—they will appreciate it.
- Say please. It’s amazing how many people will be willing to help you if you ask nicely.
- Follow all computer rules and lock your computer when you step away from your desk. Also, if your company has a social media policy, refrain from posting on Facebook during work hours.
- Ask for feedback. Some supervisors will be good at giving you positive and constructive feedback, while others may be less forthcoming. If they know it’s important to you, they may be more likely to give it.
- Avoid office gossip. If someone talks about others to you, they are probably talking about you to others.
- Pay attention to your experiences, reflect on them, and jot down a few notes. Your worst on-the-job experience may someday be your best interview story. The trick is remembering all the details.
- Wear sunscreen. Seriously.
- Be present and enjoy the experience!
- Keep in touch. Don’t wait until you need something to e-mail your former supervisor. Send an e-mail every once in a while to check in and let them know how you’re doing.
- Thank people and let them know how they impacted your life and career. A handwritten note is a very nice touch.