Top Three Tips for Internship Success

Summer internships will be starting very soon. Just in case you’re not prepared for that yet, here’s your pre-summer internship to-do list.

Once you get started and settle into your new work situation, it’s time to be strategic and set yourself up to make the most of the experience. Here are my top three tips for internship success:

  1. Go above and beyond the call of duty. Hopefully, you will have plenty of work to keep you busy at your internship. Some of that work you might not be super excited to do, like filing or making copies. Do this work without complaint, and treat these tasks with the same respect you show to other more “important” assignments. Sometimes, you’ll complete all of your work and have free time on your hands. Make that time count by looking for more to do and asking others if there is anything you can do to help them. An internship is your opportunity to make a good professional impression and gain as much experience as possible. Approach the entire experience with gusto!
  2. Network with everyone. One of the greatest benefits of an internship is meeting professionals in your field. You’ll learn the ropes of your future profession from seasoned veterans and maybe even find a mentor. But in the realm of professional relationships, connecting with co-workers NOT directly in your line of work is often overlooked. An important lesson to learn in networking is that anyone could become a valuable contact. Just because you think that a person in a different line of work can be of no help to you professionally, keep in mind that you never know where life may lead you. Get to know a variety of people at your internship and understand that variety is what makes a good network.
  3. Challenge yourself. Who really wants to push themselves during the summer? Summer is all about relaxing, isn’t it? It could be, but you’re an intern. Challenge yourself to try new things or take on assignments that are a little uncomfortable. By pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone, you will grow personally and professionally. And it’s this kind of growth that makes your internship a great one.

There are many, many more ways to be a successful intern. For more tips, see my Pinterest board, Best Practices for the Workplace.

Photo from Number 17

Avoid Intern Burnout

Welcome back from the short Thanksgiving break. I can hardly believe it’s the last week of November already, and I have no idea where the fall semester went. The next few weeks won’t make it any better.

‘Tis the season for high burnout potential.


If you are a current intern, you are entering a high-stress time. You’ll be wrapping up your internship. Final exams are looming. Mixed with the holidays, there is a lot going on.

Don’t crash and burn. Here are some tips for avoiding intern burnout as the fall semester comes to an end:

  • Get plenty of sleep. When you don’t get enough sleep, you can’t function. And with so much going on at this time of the year, you can’t afford to not be at your best. Aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night. And when you start thinking that pulling an all-nighter is a good idea, remember that most people regret it the next morning. If you need ideas for improving your sleep habits, check out these sleep tips for college students.
  • Be active every day. If you regularly work out, keep up your routine. If you’ve been relatively inactive, start incorporating more activity into your day. Whatever you do, don’t overdo it. For the active types, this isn’t the time to start training for a marathon. For those new to working out, take things easy with simple, short walks. And for some relaxing fitness, try yoga. Take a yoga class or pick up a yoga DVD. Stretching is important for overall well-being and it will help calm your mind, too.
  • Eat healthy the majority of the time. At this time of the year, food indulgences are the name of the game. Partake in this seasonal yumminess, but do so in moderation. It’s one thing to stuff yourself on Thanksgiving. It’s a whole other problem if you eat like that every day. Eating well – healthy, balanced meals and snacks – is as important as sleep to keep you functioning.
  • Learn to say NO. Obligations can come flying at you from every direction at this time of the year. Can you work longer hours? Can you help a friend study for his/her exams? Can you go to this party or that event? You don’t have to say yes to everything, and saying no doesn’t make you a bad person. Keep in mind one of my favorite sayings: Saying no is saying yes to yourself.

How are you taking care of yourself as the semester ends? What suggestions do you have for avoiding burnout as a student?

Photo by Andrew Malone

Give and You Shall Receive

You’ve heard it before and you’ll hear it again: Internships are important. According to YouTern, “9 out of 10 direct-from-college hires to go those with internship experience on their resumes.” Employers that I talk with tell me that they look for candidates with related experience, the kind typically gained through internships.

You know that an internship benefits you. But have you ever thought about how an internship benefits an employer? Start thinking about it if you want that internship or if you want to be a successful intern.

Thank you Card

When Applying for an Internship…

  • Your resume is about you, but not really about you. Yes, your resume and cover letter provide details on your skills and experiences that qualify you for the internship. But when it comes to crafting your resume, it should speak to an employer’s needs. For example, let’s say you are applying for a PR Internship and you’ve already had some PR experience (like a previous internship). Instead of lumping that PR experience into a general “Experience” section with all of your other jobs, break it out into a “PR Experience” section. Help the reader clearly see that you have the experience they’re looking for.
  • Be careful with those Objective Statements. More often than not, I read Objectives on students’ resumes that are all about themselves: “To obtain an internship that allows me to gain experience, use my communication skills…blah, blah, blah.” If you are going to use an Objective Statement on your resume, keep it simple: “To obtain the ______ Internship with ________ (name of organization).” Don’t go into a long diatribe about what the internship will do for you.
  • The same goes for that cover letter. Just as with your resume, your cover letter is about you. However, the letter is about you in the context of what you bring to the table. How will your background benefit the employer? Have you worked in a similar environment? Have you done similar work successfully in the past?
  • Don’t forget to send a thank you note. This one should be self-explanatory. If you have an interview, make sure to follow up with a thank you note. Thank the interviewer for his/her time. Incorporate elements from your conversation, something that highlights what you will bring to the position. Showcase your appreciation for the opportunity and a genuine interest in their organization and the position.

During Your Internship…

  • There is never nothing to do. So, you finished all of your assigned work for the day. Do you sit back and relax until it’s time to leave? No, you don’t. Ask your co-workers if they need any help. Look around you for a new project to tackle. Work ahead on existing projects. Bottom line: Do something.
  • Be grateful for the opportunity. Not everyone does an internship before they graduate. For some, this might be by choice. For others, opportunities don’t pan out. Either way, you are fortunate for having the opportunity to work in a professional setting doing the work you want to do when you graduate. So, say thank you. Do small things like providing a co-worker a recommendation on LinkedIn. Share your great experience with others, such as through our Intern of the Month feature.

Yes, an internship will provide you with experience that boosts your resume and makes you a marketable candidate. But as an intern, you are there to do something for that employer, too. The right frame of mind, hard work, and gratefulness will pay off in your favor big time!

Photo by Jon Ashcroft

Professional Bags for Men

Starting an internship means leaving the student world and entering the professional world. It’s time to look the part and ditch the backpack.

So what’s wrong with a backpack? Let me ask you – Why do you use a backpack? Is it because you’re a student and need it to carry your books and supplies? The answer is probably yes.

In this environment, a backpack making you look like a student is expected and normal. But in the workplace, you want to be seen as a professional. Looking like a professional helps you to be taken more seriously by co-workers, which is particularly important as an intern. And if you hope that your internship translates into a job, then making a good impression through your work AND overall image will help make that a reality.

For women, the backpack alternative is easier to find. But what about the men? Here are some examples of appropriate work bags for men:

Leather Excursion Messenger Bag – Red Envelope

Columbian Leather Messenger Bag – Kenneth Cole Reaction

Classic Messenger Bag – Timbuk2

This last example is better suited for a more casual workplace. But given the neutral color, it could work in a business casual environment.

For more professional wardrobe ideas, check out my boards on Pinterest:

Men – Are you using a professional looking bag when you go to work?

Giving Thanks for Your Internship

thank you note for every language

I’m still basking in the glow of Thanksgiving (Respect the Bird!). So in the spirit of a holiday built around giving thanks for what we have, let’s talk about showing gratitude for your internship experience.

If you have been interning this fall, you are getting close to the end of your experience. There are plenty of things to do as you wrap up your work, one of which is saying thank you. How can you show your thanks as you exit your internship? Here are some ideas.

  • Say It. It’s simple – Say thank you to the people you have worked with over the last few months. Obviously, you should thank your supervisor for his/her guidance. Were there other people you worked with directly or people you came to know well? Thank them, too, for their support.
  • Write It. While it’s important to say thank you in person, it can be a thoughtful gesture to write thank you notes as well. Career Counselors tell students to write thank you notes after interviews (although despite the ubiquity of the advice, not many do it), but thank you notes apply in many more situations. You don’t have to write a dissertation. Just write a short, simple thank you to the people you connected with at your internship. Beyond the basic “thank you,” write about how you are grateful for the experience and how that individual helped make your experience a good one.
  • Show It. This is an optional one in my book, and it should never be an expectation. But if you’re the type who likes to bake or if you work with colleagues who enjoy celebrating with food, consider bringing treats at some point during your final week. If baking or cooking isn’t your thing and you’d still like to bring in something, you could bring doughnuts or bagels to kick-start everyone’s workday.

When people have taken the time to guide and mentor you as an intern, it is only right to show your appreciation. Small gestures go a long way in making a good impression, and leaving on a positive note is the best way to wrap up your internship.

Photo from woodleywonderworks