Preparing for a summer internship can be a daunting task, especially without any previous work experience. After completing a number of summer internships, I’ve created this list of my top lessons learned to help smooth your transition into the workplace. Some of these tips have come from things that I have done right, but an overwhelming majority I learned from making mistakes.
1. Always ask what you can do – going out of your way to get work will impress any employer and make you an asset to the company.
2. “Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” – Samuel Beckett says it better than I can. Continue to improve yourself.
3. Do your research – know the company you are going to work for and their industry, it will help you immensely when you start out. Google is your friend.
4. Understand social media – don’t just know how to post pictures of your puppy. Know how your employer and competitors use social media in their industry and be ready to talk about it.
5. Say thank you – send thank you letters to the people who interviewed you and those who helped you out during your time as an intern. They’ll remember it when writing recommendations. This is an oft-repeated tip that few people actually execute.
6. Show up early – period.
7. Listen – You already know everything that you’re going to say. If you want to learn something, close your mouth and use your ears!
8. Build relationships – Building relationships with managers as well as other interns will benefit you in networking for a job or a recommendation in the future. Make sure to connect on LinkedIn with people you work with.
9. Look yourself up online – You don’t want your employer or their customers to find pictures of you doing a keg stand, so keep your online presence classy. Employers read Facebook status updates, tweets and blog posts.
10. Don’t spend time on Facebook at work – or any other social networking site for that matter. You’ll have even more pokes if you wait until the end of the day to check!
11. Look nice – Dress better than you need to – this means at least as well as your colleagues. A professional appearance and a genuine smile will go a lot further than you can imagine.
12. Keep an open mind – you might not love the job you’re asked to do, or maybe something isn’t done the way you would do it. You’re in the internship to learn, and keeping an open mind will help you understand new practices and perspectives.
13. Don’t gossip about co-workers or your boss – it can only come back to hurt you.
14. Don’t wait to be asked twice to complete something – if you accept a task, do it.
15. Don’t be afraid to make your own mistakes – most lessons don’t sink in until you’ve done them wrong anyway.
This list is far from complete, but it’s a good start. Let me know if you have more suggestions in the comments!
Ben Graziano is a content developer at OpenSesame, the world’s marketplace for buying and selling online training courses. Ben is a senior at Babson College and loves soccer, hiking and lifting.