How To Stand Out From The Intern Crowd

How To Stand Out From The Intern Crowd
by Lauren McGoodwin
Photos Joe Kathrina | August 08, 2014

“I just landed my dream internship in the city, and I’m really excited about it. However, I’m one of fifty interns all starting at the same time. I really want to make an impression and get the most out of this experience—got any tips?”

- Allie, San Francisco


Simply put, I’m a fan of internships. They provide some of the best hands-on work experience and are a great introduction into the professional world. Since my previous job as a University Recruiter included hiring and managing interns, I have 10 great tips to help you stand out from the intern crowd and get the most out of your internship.

1. Research the company, again.

You researched the company prior to your interview (that’s one reason why you got the internship!) but it’s likely that time has passed since then; you should get reacquainted with the company before the first day. Brush up on company updates, history, the CEO, etc. It never hurts to be up-to-date with the industry you’re about to spend 40 hours/week with either.

2. Practice time management.

Show up early and leave late. Don’t ask for a week of vacation when you’re an intern for 10 weeks. If you have too much on your plate, talk to your manager before the deadline is an hour away to see how you can get help.

3. Dress for success.

In general, dressing professionally does two things: [1] it shows that you care, and [2] it helps you mentally get in the mindset to work. It’s better to be known as the well dressed, could’ve-been-a-full-time-employee intern than the too-casual intern.

4. Attitude, attitude, attitude.

Be humble, be grateful and be excited for the opportunity. Welcome new tasks with a smile and can-do attitude. Even if you decide this is not the career you want to pursue, your manager will be more willing to refer you for future opportunities because you were wonderful to work with.

5. Adapt and be flexible.

Having an intern is a big responsibility for a manager. You won’t receive a well-thought-out plan of attack every day, and not every assignment will be glamorous. Go with the flow and be willing to move outside your comfort zone.

6. Demonstrate initiative and be proactive.

This tip is not just about asking your manager if they need help with something during a quiet day—this tip is about researching or solving a problem without being asked. For example, if you see that the team is constantly bogged down with a task, leverage your skills to find a solution. Maybe this means taking a free online class about creating faster Excel reports—whatever it is, be resourceful and put in the effort to figure it out!

7. Set goals with your manager.

This is an important one because when you add this experience to your resume, you want to be able to clearly articulate what you did and the impact of your actions. If you set goals in the beginning, you’ll have a way to measure the success of your internship and show that you follow through on your commitments.

8. Never eat lunch alone.

Network, network, network. Besides getting to know your fellow interns, create a list of 5-10 employees inside and outside your department whom you’d like to know more about. Reach out to them early in your internship to find a time to grab lunch, ask them about their job, how they got into the field, etc. Develop the relationship early on and I guarantee you’ll never walk away from a lunch knowing less than when you arrived.

9. Listen…a lot.

You’re here to learn, so be a sponge for information. Ask questions, sit in on meetings and absorb as much of the professional culture as possible. This will show your genuine interest in your work, and you’ll be able to easily translate those learnings into full-time employment.

10. Actively solicit feedback.

 If you’re not getting feedback somewhat regularly, ask for it! Feedback is what makes you better at your job and taking feedback well is what will create more learning opportunities.

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Remember: with many internships, you get out what you put in, so always be prepared to go the extra mile. If you keep these tips in mind, you’ll be unstoppable!