By Ryan Laffler, Intern at The Goss Agency
- Raise your right hand above your head.
- Face your palm backwards
- In one sweeping motion, bend your elbow and hit your hand against your back
- Repeat steps 1-3 until you appreciate how awesome you are
You did it!
You landed the internship... now what?
Do I start reading The Wall Street Journal? Are TPS reports a real thing? Will I be expected to write everything in cursive… or worse – what if my boss asks me what my favorite Steely Dan album is?
How do I… adult?
Fortunately for you, being an intern comes with the assumption that you do not know everything. You are there to learn, to absorb information, processes, questionable amounts of coffee, and to make your coworkers’ lives a little bit easier. The best part: they will love you for it. However, the internship highway is not paved with gumdrops and time-spent-on-Facebook-when-you-should-have-been-licking-envelopes.
It is surprisingly easy to skate your way through an internship. Optimizing your internship for personal growth, development, and long-term connections? Now that is the difficult part. After numerous career changes and three internships under my belt, I believe that I am finally ready to pass on my secrets for making the MOST out of your summer internship…
If you do not already have a LinkedIn account, make one ASAP… or today… or right now.
In the recipe for success, LinkedIn is the spice cabinet. You can use it for networking, finding a job, and my personal favorite: marketing yourself. You are your own brand, and a potential employer should understand what makes you valuable to them within thirty seconds of reading your page. Update your LinkedIn on a regular basis, and invest in an affordable but professional head shot for your profile picture.
Search for your coworkers, boss, and anyone you else interact with professionally and connect with them on LinkedIn. Building a network takes time, so it is best to get started right away.
Last, imagine you are trying to decide if a book is worth purchasing. You can read the book’s description written by the publisher, but the best way to know whether or not a product is worth the price is by reading customer reviews. Recommendations on LinkedIn are your customer reviews. Every day that you come into work early, every evening you stay late, every time you go above and beyond inches you closer to a sterling recommendation which will help you for years to come.
- Free Time
You will have a lot of it. Whether your internship is tightly structured or loosey goosey, down time is inevitable.
Fantastic! Time to shine.
Shadow an employee; sit in on a meeting; make coffee for your coworkers; take out the trash. Do something. Just make sure that it creates value. As an intern, you will likely have access to sit in on practically any meeting so long as you ask. Use these interludes as an opportunity to learn what you want to learn.
Two weeks ago, I had an afternoon with nothing to do. I typed into Google: ‘search engine optimization for beginners’, and started familiarizing myself with the basics of SEO. Boy am I glad I did. After compiling pages upon pages of notes and shadowing the right people, I am now qualified to assist our SEO person in day to day operations. I turned a boring situation into an opportunity.
Plenty of interns miss out on learning experiences because he or she thinks they will be in the way. Tell that voice in your head to go away. Serve it up a tall glass of shut up juice. Here is the most powerful internship tool you can have in your arsenal: questions.
Ask if you can sit in on a meeting. Ask for a recommendation on LinkedIn. Ask if you can fly with your coworkers to Vegas to meet with a client. Just ask.
When Marine, Dakota Meyer, was set to receive the Medal of Honor for his time in Afghanistan, he reached out to the White House ahead of time and asked if he could have a beer or two with the President. To everyone’s disbelief, Obama agreed! Mr. Meyer actually got to share a cold one with the most powerful man on Earth on the roof of the White House. Talk about a party!
So is the power of asking.
Trust me: the worst way to spend your internship is waiting for people to bring you work to do. Seek it out.
- The Small Things
You are an intern. You are not going to deliver the powerful speech that nailed the Hershey account or have your portrait hanging in the conference room. You take out the trash, organize file cabinets, and run to Office Depot when the printer runs out of ink. You are replaceable. Alright, so…
Is it possible to be an irreplaceable intern?
However, there are small things you can do to approach that critical limit - small gestures that make you exceptional rather than ordinary.
Keep lists. Work to understand your colleagues’ schedules and needs.
Whether or not you are offered a job when your internship ends comes down to how carefully you distinguish yourself as a candidate.
- Radiate a Positive Attitude
Smile, pure and simple. Do not let heavy workloads or long hours wipe one of your most valuable assets off your face.
Avoid gossip altogether, do not curse, forego discussing problems you have at home, and never ever speak ill of coworkers or your boss.
Be an enjoyable person to be around.
This is easy for some of you, but for most people, maintaining a positive attitude takes focus and practice. Showing passion and excitement for your work will not go unnoticed and may very well earn you (cue the broken record) a shiny new LinkedIn recommendation.
That’s it! I know you are going to do wonderful things at your new internship, and I truly hope that you take every opportunity to make the most of it. It may sound banal to call internships free education, but that is exactly what they are. There is no substitute for real-world experience.
If you have any tips or tricks on how to be a better intern, please leave a comment below. As for me, I leave you with this inspirational quote from self-made billionaire and reanimated Roman statue, Mark Cuban:
Read about our other interns experience here: