Internships are fantastic opportunities to learn, experience, and grow - while increasing the chances you will land your dream job once you hit graduation. But you don’t get many shots at them - with maybe three summers at most, plus some shorter breaks if you have them, you need to get the most out of every internship experience.
Getting off on the right foot is massively important. Arriving late, flustered and unprepared, being blind to industry jargon or office etiquette, and taking time to brush up basic, expected skills, will all damage your chances of being quickly accepted into the team. Invest some time in advance, to make sure that day one of your internship is a success. Here’s how.
We will start with an obvious - but often overlooked - way of understanding what preparation is required of you. Ask.
Simply send a note to the company you will be working for, checking up if there are any specific preparations you will need to make. They want your internship to be a success as much as you do, so might well offer ideas and advice. This might be some recommended reading, security or admin documents you need to bring along, or industry concepts you should be familiar with before joining. You might also ask if there is anyone you should hook up with before coming along, such as previous interns or team members, to get your internship off to a flying start.
Be suitably enthusiastic. You’re showing your new team that you’re not only energetic and proactive - but you're also really excited to be working with them.
Develop your understanding (and opinions)
It’s likely that you will have some insight into your chosen internship field, but developing your industry (and general) knowledge is a great way to ensure you come off as informed and sharp right from day one.
To learn your industry you can review relevant specialist press and websites and check out the competition, either online or by visiting in person. Follow industry insiders on Twitter and seek out blogs which cover the news in your field, for a more individual take on what’s happening. Whatever you read, read it critically, and try to form your own personal opinion about the hot topics. You’ve been hired because you will bring something new to the business, so expect to be asked what you think about developments in the business and wider field.
It’s worth taking some time to catch up on current affairs, too, if you’re out of the loop. The chances are that the office you are in will be populated with people more familiar with news sites than celebrity gossip, so getting up to date will make it easier to join the conversation. Make the most of the opportunity to network, and get to know everyone in your team by making natural connections and remaining curious about what they do.
Check out your online footprint
Google yourself. It’s not narcissistic, it is necessary.
Check out what others will find when they look you up, and make sure you’re comfortable with it. A professional image is important, so it might be time to tidy up your social media - or even, if you have the time, find ways of developing your online footprint in a more impactful way.
Blogging about a relevant topic, for example, is a great way to have your name out there ad associated with your chosen subject matter. You don’t necessarily need your own platform to do this, if there are other blogs in the right field which accept guest posts. If you’re a born writer, check it out. Even if you’re not such a whizz with words, you can update your LinkedIn profile and start to share and comment on posts which are within your network, and related to your internship. Again, this shows an interest in your professional field which will impress the team you’re moving into.
Get a view on where you can help
You might already know the core purpose of your internship, and the day to day tasks you expect to be carrying out. It is worth also thinking a little outside of the box, about ways you can add value outside of your role remit.
For example, are you an expert on social media, who can help the team develop their skills? Do you represent a demographic the business is looking to talk to more effectively - and if so, can you offer constructive criticism about the angles they are using to do so? Have you come across ideas, concepts, or competitors that the team really should know about? All too often an established team are so involved in their own work that they fail to see the ideas that are around them. That is where new additions to the team - and interns in particular - can add real value. Tread carefully, but make offers and see where the conversation leads you.
Finally, do not forget the practical preparation you need to make day one go well.
Practise your commute so you do not arrive late on the first day. Get to know the office dress code so you’re not uncomfortably under- (or over-) dressed when you first arrive. Check out what computer systems and software are used, and what level of understanding you are expected to have. It might be time to brush up those Excel skills if you have let them get rusty.
Wherever you are interning, make an effort to understand accepted office etiquette, so you make a positive impression on the team. Learning some industry or business jargon, and being mindful to talk in a professional manner, will also make you feel more confident, and settle in more quickly when you arrive.
You will want to squeeze every last drop out of your hard-won internship. By getting off to a good start, you are more likely to integrate quickly, and gain the trust and respect of your team. The more value you add to the business, the more you will get from the experience, as you are given more challenging tasks, and bigger opportunities. You might even turn this internship into a full time job after uni.
First impressions really do count. You’ve worked hard to get this internship opportunity, so make sure you make the most of it, starting right from day one.