How To Excel At Your Internship
Updated: Feb 20
This blog is a part of a two-blog series outlining strategies for successful internships, from the point of view of an intern and an intern supervisor! The first part, this blog, is written by me, Virtual Marketing Intern at Sarah VanderMeiden Coaching. The second part is written by Sarah VanderMeiden. I hope you enjoy hearing about these top internship tips and tricks as we reflect on our internship experience over the past few months!
Internships come in all different shapes and sizes, but an intern’s goals generally remain the same: Gain experience, make connections, and learn new skills. Similar to all jobs, an intern may be more or less engaged and excited about the company and tasks to which they are assigned, but all internships provide priceless opportunities for growth.
For interns, an internship can be stressful and nerve-wracking. What if I mess something up? What if I make a bad impression? Internships are an entry level ticket into any field, so usually the intern has little to no experience with the kinds of tasks and activities they have been assigned. This is potentially the first time they have applied their in-class learning to real-world situations. An exciting, yet daunting, prospect!
Many interns wonder how to excel in an internship. After reflecting on my experience as an intern, I have compiled this list of internship tips for success, helping future interns make the most of their experience before, during, and after their internship.
Research the company: There is nothing worse than asking questions at a job or interview that could be answered by a simple google search. Before you start your internship, make sure you have perused all online assets your company has--website, social media, etc. By the first day, you should have a solid grasp on the company’s mission, what they do, and who they are (research the people you will be working with!). This isn’t to say that they expect you to know everything coming in. But, it’s much better to be more prepared than less!
Identify your own goals for the experience: Once you start an internship, it’s easy to get bogged down with tasks and activities to complete. To avoid quickly becoming disappointed, identify goals before starting an internship. Think about what you want to get out of the experience. Then, even while completing mundane tasks, you can point yourself back to your goals, remembering how this internship fits into your broader career interests.
Communicate: I’m sure it seems obvious, but communication is key! Especially if you are completing a virtual internship, like myself, make sure you establish guidelines around communication with your supervisor. How often can you expect email correspondence and check-ins to happen? What is their preferred method of communication? Establishing these norms early will set your internship up for success. Additionally, remember to keep communication channels professional through using proper grammar and spelling while maintaining clear and concise correspondence.
Plan: Depending on the nature of your internship, your tasks and activities may be more or less monitored by your site supervisor. In all cases, however, your internship won’t be as structured as the college classes you’re used to with clear rubrics and syllabi. If much of your work is self directed, make sure you take the time to plan out how you will complete everything while effectively prioritizing tasks. Create daily, weekly, and internship long goals, if appropriate. Also remember that it’s okay if your plan doesn’t work out. Adjust accordingly and keep moving forward!
Connect: Having a “best friend” at work is a major factor related to employee engagement. Do your best to connect with those you are working with like other interns in your cohort and full time co-workers that could provide networking opportunities. If you are completing a virtual internship or working with a smaller company, it may be beneficial to create your own community outside of your position--friends, family members, and past classmates with whom you can check in and connect.
Deliver: Regardless of what kind of activities are part of your internship, make sure you complete all responsibilities on time and as assigned. Consistently delivering quality and value to your company will prove your worth to them and future employers.
Reflect on the experience: Now that your internship is complete, intentionally reflect on your experience. Remember the goals you set before starting? How did you succeed? As you identify what you enjoyed about the work and company environment, consider how those things line up with future opportunities. Explore what aspects of the experience you didn’t particularly enjoy and help that guide you in avoiding future positions that do not line up with your strengths.
Maintain connections: Even though your internship is over, it doesn’t mean the professional connections you’ve made have to be! Connect with supervisors and co-workers on LinkedIn and stay informed about what they and the company is up to. You never know when you may need a reference or recommendation, and maybe they will lead you to more opportunities in the future!
Share the experience! Add this internship to your resume and share about your experience on LinkedIn. Also take time to identify specific ways you can communicate what you did as a part of your internship. Be as specific as possible and determine how your experience can translate to behavioral based questions asked in interviews. Become an expert at selling your experience to other future employers. This will be valuable as you move forward in your career.
I hope these internship tips about how to excel in an internship are helpful for you as you begin your experience! Best of luck!
Contributing Writer Grace Bloomquist is enjoying her last semester of college at St. Olaf College. Though she is a Theater Major with a Management Studies Concentration, the pandemic has greatly affected her career plans and trajectory. Upon reflection, Grace has realized that whatever she does, she wants to be working with people--understanding that there is power in collaboration