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How to Keep an Internship
How to Keep an Internship
The following information represents employer feedback, widely understood best practices and a dose of common sense.
Don't Get Comfortable
- Landing the internship may have been a significant challenge, but that was only the first step. Think of your internship as a semester-long interview. The employer is observing your actions and expecting your performance to remain consistent throughout the semester. Stay sharp and work toward your goals at an even pace. Avoid sharing too much personal information; have a sense of humor but remain politically correct at all times; and remember your status as a student.
Dress the Part
- There is a reason the CEO wears a power tie. Professional attire communicates and commands a certain level of respect. As an intern, you want to be viewed seriously. However, do not out-dress your coworkers or dress in a manner that is inappropriate for the work environment.
- Women should remember the difference between dressing for a night out and dressing for work. Although 4-inch stiletto platforms may be in style, an internship is not the place to make a fashion statement. You want to be remembered for your outstanding work, not for your attire.
- Men often fall into the trap of wearing too much cologne, hair products, jewelry or other accessories. Remember, your identity is shaped by your actions and quality of your work, not by your oversized watch.
- Your earbuds, cell phone, Blackberry and/or other devices are not part of professional attire. Leave them in the car or in your bag and allow yourself to focus only on your internship responsibilities. As a reminder, no texting while on the internship.
- Create working relationships with colleagues and watch for opportunities to collaborate. The employer may be interested in seeing how you are able to navigate interactions with others and how you fit within existing teams. You may end up creating networking contacts that last well after the internship is over.
Keep a Journal
- Reflect on what you have accomplished and what you are learning by keeping a weekly journal of your internship activities. This practice will assist you in updating your résumé, preparing for interviews and prepping for negotiations in your next internship or job search. More importantly, a journal keeps you in touch with your strengths and weaknesses and enables you to achieve a greater sense of self-awareness.
Talk to Your Supervisor
- This one falls into the common sense category, but at times this may be difficult due to your supervisor's schedule. Therefore, at the beginning of your internship confirm with your supervisor a regular meeting schedule if he/she does not suggest it first. This will build in a regular opportunity for you to discuss progress, ask questions and share ideas.
- Most importantly, if something is going wrong or you are having difficulties with your internship or personally, talk to your supervisor immediately. Please contact CBIP staff as we often provide advice and suggestions to students for communicating with their supervisors. We believe in empowering students to speak with their supervisors directly as this is an important skill to develop overall.
Ask for Help
- Make sure you fully comprehend tasks assigned to you. Ask for help when you are having trouble understanding the task or if there is a situation out of your capability.
Use Effective Vocabulary
- "Like, um, yup, yo, sorta, dude, bail, fly, hey, ya know, whatnot, basically" and other popular habits of speech are not acceptable on the internship. There is a difference between speaking to your friends and speaking with an employer. How you speak not only reflects on your professionalism but also on your intelligence. Additionally, do not interrupt your supervisor or others during conversations.
Treat Email Professionally
- Each email you send is an example of your writtten communication skills. Email is not like texting. If you want to gain a competitive edge, write in complete sentences with proper punctuation and spelling. Do not abbreviate or add emoticons. Include a signature or business card at the bottom of your outgoing emails (your name, address, telephone number).
- Pay attention to content. Email may not be the best strategy to convey serious or timely information unless absolutely necessary. Combine those types of email with a telephone call or in-person conversation. Trivial emails, jokes or chains have no place on the internship. Avoid sending email to people sitting close to you; talk to them in person when appropriate.
- Each email you send is a formal documentation of your thoughts; therefore never express negative emotions or confrontational opinions through email. Always assume someone is saving your emails or even forwarding them to key individuals who could jeopardize your career aspirations.
Last Day Advice
- The last day at the internship should be as professional as the first. People potentially remember a person for their latest actions, not necessarily their best.
- Say thank you to everyone who impacted your internship experience. Consider writing a formal thank you on professional letterhead to your supervisor.
Ace the Exit Interview
- Accept constructive criticism and be honest when answering questions from your supervisor. Deliver suggestions with professionalism and tact.
- Be prepared to discuss what you have learned and to provide a thorough status update of the internship project if ongoing.
- Respectfully request your supervisor serve as a professional reference for you going forward.
- Remind your supervisor of any CBIP paperwork needing to be completed, such as the end-of-semester evaluation.
- Express your interest in working for the employer full-time if appropriate and only if you mean it.
- Gather contact information from any individuals with whom you wish to stay connected.
- Share your contact information in a thank you email to co-workers and copy your supervisor.