This summer has gone by so fast! I only have a couple more weeks left in the city before I have to move back into school and start my job as an RA in a freshman dorm. I’m really excited for the coming school year, but I still have a couple weeks left to make the most of my internship. Today I’m sharing my tips for how to make the most of your summer internship. Some of these tips I’ve heard from others and some I’ve learned throughout my own experience this summer. If you see anything I missed, leave me a comment and let me know what your best tips for internships are!
1. Learn about the whole organization
My internship this summer is in the communications department of a nonprofit called the Partnership for Public Service. Before I applied, I had never heard of it, but I did a crazy amount of research before my interview. Once you get the job, and even while you’re there, keep researching and keep learning. Since I’m on the communications team, I interact with a lot of people across the organization and I get to see the work of many different teams. No matter what department your internship is in, I recommend learning as much as you can about the organization as a whole. Showing that you’re dedicated enough to learn the ins and outs of the whole organization can only help you in the long run.
2. Get to know the other interns
There are about 30 interns at my organization and I know all of their names and some things about each of them. Part of that is a function of my organization’s stellar internship program, but part of that is my own initiative. I’ve taken the time to talk to all of the other interns and learn about the work they’re doing and how they got to our organization this summer. I definitely recommend doing this, whether your organization has 30 interns or just 3. It’s good to have friends at work and when you can’t figure out how to work the printer, it can be a lot more comfortable to go to a fellow intern than your supervisor.
3. Ask to be involved in interesting projects
Even if you’ve been loving your internship so far, I’m sure there are still some ways you can think of improving your experience. Your supervisor will have tasks they need you to complete, but chances are you have some downtime. If you hear about a project you want to be involved in, talk to your supervisor and see if there’s a way you can take part. For example, my organization is switching from Convio to Mailchimp as their email list company. I have a bit of experience with Mailchimp as I use it for my own email list, and I asked my supervisor if I could be involved in the switch. She was totally open to it and is helping me find a role in the switch.
4. Ask for feedback from your internship supervisor
Every week, my supervisor and I have a check in where we discuss what I’ve been up to, my goals, and what she’d like me to do moving forward. I wrote more about our check ins on my internship blog, which you can read here. Even if you don’t have a formal weekly check in with your supervisor, I highly recommend setting up a time every once in a while to ask them for feedback on what you’ve been doing well and what you can do better. If for some reason you can’t do this very frequently, at least make the time in your last week to get feedback on how you did this summer and what you can keep in mind for future internships.
5. Go to coffee with people whose work interests you
One of the biggest networking tips I’ve gotten is to ask people to coffee. People everywhere love coffee, but especially in DC. My supervisor is very accommodating and is totally open to letting me take time out of my day to get coffee with someone I want to connect with from the office. I’ve made it my goal to get coffee with as many people on the communications team as possible and I highly recommend it as a networking technique if you want to make the most out of your internship and leave with as many connections as possible. Even if your supervisor won’t let you take time during the day, consider going on your lunch hour or right after work. It’s a great way to take your internship to the next level by connecting with people whose work interests you outside the setting of the office.
6. Ask people to teach you new skills
You want to make sure you aren’t asking for help with every single little thing, but at the same time, part of the point of an internship is for you to learn. Often, your coworkers will want to help you out (especially if they’re close to your age and this is one of their first jobs), but they won’t know to do that unless you ask. My organization uses a program called Salesforce, which I’ve seen as a requirement on a lot of job applications but I don’t get to use in my day-to-day. I scheduled time with a coworker to learn because she wanted to make sure I got the most out of my experience and was totally willing to help! Reach out to one of your coworkers who has a special skill and see if they’d be willing to take a few minutes to help you out.
7. Get involved on other teams
This tip connects learning about the whole organization with asking to be involved on interesting projects. Just because your internship is with the communications team doesn’t mean you can’t help out on a different team. At my organization, everybody does a little bit of everything so it’s easy to find something to help out with. If it’s not quite as easy to hop on another team’s project at your organization, talk to your supervisor and see if you can be involved in a cool project you heard about on another team.
8. Add people from your office on LinkedIn
I will be the first to say that LinkedIn can be difficult and confusing, BUT at the same time it’s vital for networking. After you’ve been at your organization for a while and a little before you leave at the end of the summer, add some of your coworkers on LinkedIn to stay connected with them. If they continue to see your updates on the site, they will remember who you are when you want to reconnect as a part of your job search. It’s important to stay in touch with people you may want to connect with in the future and LinkedIn can help with that.
9. Chat with the receptionist
If your office has a receptionist or someone who works at the front desk, get to know them! They probably know a ton about what’s going on in the office because they see who goes in and out all day as well as knowing all the employees at the organization. Our receptionist is named Jade and she is awesome. As a part of my internship, I have to take shifts at the front desk on Jade’s lunch and bathroom breaks as well as days when she isn’t in the office. Not only has it helped me get to know more of the people in my office and how things get done, it’s also great training in customer service, which is important in any job.
10. Make copies
Everybody wants a substantive internship, but there are always going to be menial tasks that need to be done. Somebody has to do the mundane work and learning how to work the office copy machine is a valuable skill. As you’re trying to take your internship experience to the next level, don’t forget that nobody is above making copies. Demonstrating that you don’t think you’re too good to do things that must be done can reflect very positively on you.
I hope these tips help you make the most of your internship this summer. What are your tips for having a great internship experience? Leave a comment below and tell me!