Between my time in Corporate America and running my own businesses over the past 35 years I have had the opportunity to hire many interns and have some definite thoughts on the subject. It is my hope that these tips will help you be a better intern and get hired after graduation.
Make yourself available for an interview and NEVER cancel – I had an intern who cancelled on me an hour before their scheduled interview. Needless to say this person wasn’t hired! Barring an emergency, show up, be prompt and of course dress appropriately.
Always answer emails promptly – When I assign work I want to know that interns have received and understand what is being asked. I have had to call interns in the past to see if they received. You never want to hear “Sorry I didn’t check my email…”
When given an assignment, complete on time and communicate out that you are done – So you have done the work and done it well. Don’t forget to let others know, so they can check your work and hopefully praise your efforts. As strange as it seems I have had to ask interns on occasions if they had completed the task at hand. “Oh yeah, I finished that a long time ago…”
Check Your Work & Then Check It Again – One of the worst things you can do is turn in work full of typos and misused words. I had an intern last year write a blog post with 5 typos in a single sentence!! Also, as spell check doesn’t tell you that you have used the wrong version of “there”, you need to read and re-read everything. Believe it or not I have gotten resumes with misspelled words. This doesn’t leave a good impression.
Ask For More Work – Be eager, you are low person on the totem pole. People love to see interns who ask for more to do. This is a great way to get hired after graduation. Internships are many times a try out for future employment. Treat them as you would your dream job, not just a temporary position.
Be on time and alert – While this seems obvious, I have had interns show up late and even have had an intern fall asleep at their desk after coming in late after a weekend! At the time, I was working for one of the most successful companies in the world and my boss called me to say he walked by this person’s desk and she was asleep. When I asked her about it, she said, “I was just resting”.
Positive attitude only – No one likes working with someone that has a poor attitude. Remember, as I said above an internship is a lot like a tryout. For a company to hire you after graduation, they want to see how you interact with people and customers. So always show up with happy, positive outlook.
Own Up To Mistakes – You are an intern and are expected to make errors. When it happens, learn from it and move on. But always admit you made a mistake and don’t be afraid to ask for help. That is how we all learn, that is how we all get better.
Ask for feedback – Always ask your boss for feedback, especially at the end of your internships. A good boss will tell you the truth, and give you things to work on which will help you future internships and then on job interviews as well.
End on a strong note – My last batch of interns was a stellar group. This one particular intern did a good job for our company for most of his 6 months. But then towards the end he was already moving onto his next internship and started missing assignments. He would say I’ll get to it today. He would even tell me that he’s been busy with his next internship. This of course is nothing an employer wants to hear. Sadly he never did finish his last assignments and I had to reassign his work to other interns. The shame of it is I could’ve been a good reference. But now I couldn’t in good conscience as he finished so poorly. So always finish strong and work as hard on your last day as you did on the first day.
Bottom Line: Think of your internships like the NBA combines. You are trying out and showing your skills to possible future employers. So make the most of the opportunities, your future may depend on it.