10 Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Internship

Macmillan Employee
Macmillan Employee
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Summer means many things to many different people at all different phases of life. For young children, it means a summer full of sprinklers and popsicles, along with a few scraped knees and sunburns. But for college students, summer means the glorious world of being an intern. The first day of a new internship is always scary, no matter how old we are. For some of us, this year is the first summer we’ve ever had an internship. And to others, this summer is just another summer of working nine-to-five in the corporate world.

Sure, we all come into the internships with a relative idea of what we will be doing. At the very least, we know what company we will be working for and in what department. But an internship often comes with countless uncertainties. And if this summer is the first of your interning summers, those uncertainties can be rather daunting. Upon coming to Macmillan Learning this summer for my first internship, I consulted the oracle of Pinterest for tips to completing my first internship, and being an intern that gets remembered in a positive way. After delving through hundreds of tips, I decided on my own top 10 tips, based on my internship experience thus far.

1. Look the part

Sure, we all love our yoga pants and sweatshirts, but the corporate world is no place for an outfit made for a night in of Netflix and junk food. If we want to be taken seriously as interns and young professionals, we have to take ourselves and our jobs seriously. Contrary to popular belief, this doesn’t mean we have to break the bank either.

When I was preparing for my internship at Macmillan Learning, my mom and I explored my favorite place in the world, Target. Classy and professional clothing on a budget - the perfect place for any college student. Start with the basic, a few pairs of solid colored pants and skirts, maybe a dress of two as well. Then move on to mixing and matching. Grab some patterned tops that can work with several of your pants, and you’ve already created quite a few outfits. Add in a jacket or two with some comfortable shoes, and you’ve got your wardrobe all set, and for a pretty cheap price.

Now that the clothes are under control, let’s not forget the appearance. Wake up early and get yourself ready in time for work, and don’t rush. You should feel confident as you strut through Corporate America. You’ll notice everyone else does the same. Also, check out outfits on your commute to and from work. I’ve snagged a few style tips from girls I’ve seen on my commutes. And more often than not, they’re older and have a lot more experience with appearances in the corporate world, so they are a great resource!

2. Be on time (or early)

There is nothing more unprofessional than being late, especially on your first day! Always be early, even if you think it’s too early, I promise there’s no such thing. Plan to come into work around fifteen minutes before your boss gets there. This way you can have all of your daily housekeeping tasks (lunch, coffee, etc.) done and you’re ready for your first task of the day when your boss arrives. This also means you’ve got some grace time in case the morning commute doesn’t go well that day.

My grandfather always told me that being late wasted someone else’s time, not just my own. So, don’t waste anyone else’s time. I promise, it won’t lead to good things. Also, don’t be the first one out of the office at quitting time either. Again, not the best impression you want to give your superiors.

3. ALWAYS have a good attitude
Let’s face it, we’re interns. And as much as your boss can give you some really fun and innovative projects to work on, there are going to be some slow days of mundane “intern tasks.” Whether it be mass mailing, or copying more papers than you thought possible, it’s important to always have a good attitude about any task you’re given. Having a good attitude about the small things makes it much more likely for your boss to assign you another fun project, and who doesn’t want that?

4. Take initiative

Getting your tasks done a few hours before they are due is always good, but be sure to make constructive use of the left over time. Start laying the groundwork for a future project your boss discussed with you previously, or complete some easy tasks without your boss even asking you too. Being on top of things will only help make things easier, and make your boss happy as well. It’s a win-win!

5. Listen

The main goal of being an intern is to gain experience, and most of that, believe it or not, comes from just listening and paying attention to your surroundings. I know college makes us think that we know everything, but the corporate world boardroom is not the place to be a millennial hot shot. However, sometimes our opinions are warranted and actually might be of help. For example, working in educational publishing, my superiors have often asked me for my opinions of educational products and services in my college career. Helping out like this gives you a chance to share how you feel in a professional and productive manner.

6. Ask questions

Contrary to popular belief, your mom was right, there are no stupid questions. Speaking from experience, it is much better to ask a “stupid” question, than to try and complete the task unsure of what you’re doing. And more often than not, mistakes are made when this happens, which will only make you, and possibly your boss, more frustrated. So speak up! Trust me, everyone would prefer you did than try and do things on your own and fail.

7. Get to know everyone

From fellow interns to the CEO, it’s important to get to know everyone as best you can while at your internship. First off, it makes the work day a lot better when you’re around people you know. And second, the networking connections you make will be invaluable. While at Macmillan Learning I’ve had the chance to get to know several executives, and even help host a meeting for the CEO himself. And now, he knows me by name and often says hello and starts a conversation with me. When intern orientation came around a few weeks after working here, I was the only intern the CEO knew, and that was a great feeling. Talk about a networking connection!

8. Say yes to new opportunities

In the corporate world, not everything is as planned as it may seem. Things often happen last minute, and it’s important to be flexible. From last minute meetings and phone calls, to cocktail parties and work receptions, it’s important to try and attend as many things as you can. Attending events shows your interest in the company and its people, as well as a genuine care for your job. I promise, Netflix will still be there when you get home.

9. Be prepared

One of the greatest businessmen I know is my dad. He’s taught me countless business lessons over the years, and taught me the importance of a work ethic and professionalism. One of the key lessons he taught me before I came to Macmillan Learning was to always be prepared. More specifically, always have a pen and paper in your hand. When you come to your boss for an assignment, or when you walk into a meeting, always be prepared to take good notes, you never know where that information might come up again. Come to meetings prepared to discuss the task at hand, and catch yourself up to speed before if needed. There is nothing executives hate more than an intern that is not prepared to do their job.

10. Make a grand exit

When the time finally comes for you to clean out your cubicle, be sure you do things the right way. Write thank you notes to your boss and other executives, as well as anyone else that helped you out during your internship. In addition, schedule an exit interview with your boss if possible. Ask about what you did well, and what you can improve on for your next job opportunity. And lastly, stay in touch! Internships are made to turn into job offers, so be sure to keep the company up to speed on your life, and vice versa. It will only help you out when it comes to applying for a job.

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About the Author
Paige Clayton is a rising sophomore at Ohio University in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. She is working for Macmillan Learning as a summer intern in the Communications Department. Paige is very passionate about writing, education, traveling, and changing the world for the better in whatever ways she can.