Intern Like a Boss: Five Ways to Be a Good Intern
Originally published Jun 30, 2013 at beijingkids Magazine.
As my internship at beijingkids comes to a close and I prepare for my next adventure, I’d like to share my tips for success at an internship. Sarcastic remarks aside, an internship is becoming the new entry-level job of this time period. Being a fantastic intern now can land you a job in the future, a concern of every young person today. Below is my real-world advice for making the best of your internship.
It doesn’t matter when you went to bed, whether or not you are feeling well, or if you just want to sleep in. GET UP. On my first day, I wanted to make sure that I could find my way to work using the metro system, so I left two and a half hours early. I have a tendency to get lost if I don’t know the area well, so I gave myself a ridiculous amount of leeway. I arrived an hour early and then waited in a cafe until fifteen minutes before my shift started. Your coworkers will remember when you arrive and when you leave. Come early, stay late. It will make a difference.
Dress Like the Others
Dress professionally on the first day. After you have seen what other people wear, you can dress more casually or continue wearing blazers and dress pants. You need to take this job seriously, and that begins with dressing seriously. If you think your skirt is too short, it is. If you think your tee shirt is too vulgar, it is. Make a point to be well groomed, with clean clothes that fit well and look flattering. The first impression that an employer will have will be based on your appearance, and then on your performance.
Never Miss a Due Date
Remember back in elementary school when you’d get a gold star for completing your assignments? It would be such a proud moment for you, but out in the real world, you don’t get constant recognition for just doing your job. Keep being proud of your accomplishments, but don’t become busy with other things and miss a deadline. Employers remember if you turn things in late.
Make a pact with yourself to always turn in your work on time and give yourself rewards when you do. My gold star has turned into a Game of Thrones or Doctor Who marathon after work, and it’s very effective. Do what works for you.
Do Extra Work
Look for ways to help where you can. If a coworker can’t think of an idea for a project, brainstorm with her. Keep your schedule open. A last-minute assignment will eventually creep up and if you are asked to take it, take it. It will show that you are not only willing to take on more responsibilities, but that you are organized enough to have time for them too. Make sure that you stay balanced; if you are going to school while interning, then your education comes before work. Make sure that both your time and effort is shared equally.
Act Like You Are Being Paid
If you managed to land an internship that already pays you, congratulations! You are among the golden ones, and have every right to obnoxiously remind the unfortunate interns of your luck and future hypothetical career choices. If you are in the majority of young people that work for free, chin up. Treat your internship like a real job that actually pays you. Talk to your coworkers on lunch breaks. Go to company outings when you can. Crack jokes and listen to what other people say. Getting involved will help you get over the fact that you are making no money.
The goal of an internship is to gain experience, and that includes the range of good and bad in every job. Work hard and you will be rewarded later with a career that pays well and makes you happy.