15 Do’s and Don’ts of Getting and Keeping an Internship
Posted by Katie Ostoich on May 7, 2012 at 5:45 PM
In this economy, getting an internship during college can make or break your chances to get a job when you graduate. Employers look for experience, and if you have a kick-ass experience in your career field, well, your resume just jumped to the top of the pile. A good intern is very valuable to a company, so obviously, you want to make yourself indispensible and make the opportunity worthwhile for everyone involved. So here are 15 keys to getting hired (and remaining) an intern.
1. Be persistent, not annoying.
There is a fine line between persistence and annoyance, and you want to stay on the side of persistence. If you are stalking a potential employer and you get irritated that they don't email you back immediately and you email them saying 'why haven't you emailed me back,' you may have just crossed the line into annoyance and you've just lost the job.
Instead, send simple sweet reminders every other week that you would love the opportunity to help out in any capacity. Or even better, send ideas. For instance, if you know something the company is working on, send, “I thought you'd like this stuff on ebay,” emails, or, “I know you are busy, but I read this article and thought you would love this insight,” emails. And don't get mad if they don't reply. This shows that you a) are interested in the field and b) don't mind giving of your time for free, and c) you’re smart. It shows that you are obsessed with whatever you’re studying, not just desperate for a job so you can have drinking money or something to put on your resume. You don't want to nag your future boss, but you do want to stay in their radar - so send them these HELPFUL emails, not needy ones.
2. Know that you won't be doing the fun stuff at first.
I can't tell you how many internships I had that started out with me cleaning up illustration files or buying products (I studied graphic design). Expect to do expense reports, returns, accounting, coffee, running to get supplies, etc, for a while. The fun stuff always comes, I promise, but not if you are impatient -- you won't last long enough.
3. Manage yourself and volunteer for everything.
It's widely known that with workforce cuts, everyone is busier than ever. So it is extremely important that the people at the bottom level can manage themselves so the bosses don't have to. If tasks aren't obvious, then ask, “what can I do this week for you?” instead of waiting for them to give you a task. It shows that you want to work, your eagerness is extremely appreciated, and you become indispensable. Your motto should be, “I'll do it” as an intern. Practice that. “I'll. Do. It.”
4. Computer skills aren't enough to get the job.
Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Photoshop, Auto-cad, Sketchup, etc are needed, indeed, but you need to show more than that to get a job, especially at a competitive or creative company. Think outside the box. If the job involves writing, start a blog. Designing? Print out your Pinterest page. If networking is important to the company’s bottom line, let them know you have been talking it up. Resumes are boring, so shake it up.
Also care about what you wear. You represent your boss at all times, so you kinda need to dress like it.
5. Get yourself a work ethic.
Seems obvious, but it isn't. There is always something to do!!! As someone new, as the lowest man on the totem pole, you should always be helping. Stay late if you need. Show up ON TIME. Traffic is not an excuse. Go above and beyond what you are expected to do. It’s noticed, I promise and you'll get hired.
6. Be resourceful and figure stuff out on your own.
Coming up with a solution instead of asking for it is invaluable. Use your head. Do all the research you can to try to solve the problem. Then and only then ask your boss once you’ve exhausted every other resource.
7. BE HAPPY.
Naturally we are all allowed to complain now and again, but there is a difference between being frustrated at times, and being moody and grumpy often. Walking around the office clearly in a bad mood sucks the energy out of everyone and makes your boss not want to ask you to do something, a sign that this relationship isn't working. Your boss should always feel able to ask you do to something, and you should always be happy to do it. And if you feel really tired, just keep it to yourself because I promise, your boss is more tired than you are.
8. Don't expect to be best friends with your boss.
Unfortunately you are there to work, not hang out and make friendship bracelets. Obviously friendships may form (hopefully), but they also may not, and that's ok. This has happened to me a few times where there is bitterness and it causes stress. Work first, and if friendships form, great, but that is not why you are there.
9. Don't make comments about how broke you are.
Your finances are not your boss’s concern and you should never make your boss feel guilty about how much you make. You know going into any job or internship what you are going to get paid. You said “Yes” to the job. After a few months, if you are struggling to pay the bills and may need to leave because of it, then schedule a conversation with your boss about that, and hopefully it can be worked out. But never complain about the low or lack of wage, its totally unprofessional. Little hints aren't just little hints -- they are massive annoyances and come across immature and entitled.
We all started out working for pennies, but you won't forever, or for very long, I promise. The assistants and interns who don't complain are the ones that turn into paid assistants or get raises.
10. Write things down - listen and take notes.
Please. I promise you, there is no way you are going to remember everything. Write everything down. Repeating yourself is frustrating and your boss doesn’t have time. You will be able to do your job with more confidence and more accuracy.
11. Predict questions and have answers.
Follow directions, but go beyond that – your boss will love that. Think about what questions you would ask about the project and get the answer beforehand.
12. Be efficient.
Multi-tasking skills are crazy important. Work fast. It will prove you are worth every penny.
13. Don't give unsolicited negative feedback.
If you walk by people having a discussing an issue, don’t jump in and say, “Oh that won’t work.” It doesn't prove that you have opinions or are smart. It just proves that you like the sound of your own voice. Sure, you can give unsolicited positive feedback, but not negative, at first. Once your boss trusts you, then of course give criticism and jump into discussions, but new interns and assistants should watch and learn and prove yourself first.
14. Predict Needs.
This is where you totally become indispensable. If you see your boss about to start an important client meeting, set up some coffee or double check that is presentation is ready to go. If you see that their computer is running out of batteries, plug it into a charger. This stuff is assistant GOLD, people. PREDICT NEEDS.
15. Don't be sensitive.
If your boss doesn't like any of the solutions you came up with, don't get annoyed or sensitive. If they don't like the way you took a message (actually happened to me), don't cry, its ok. It takes a long ass time to know the specific tastes and needs of your boss, so don't worry about it. A good boss will try and say why they don't like something so you can learn, but know that it takes a while to learn somebody else's style and work preferences. Ask “why” so you understand, but then take the info and move on.