5 Ways to Impress As an Intern
Congratulations! You’ve landed a prestigious internship. But now the work of making the most of that internship – to grow your skills, gain confidence, learn more about being in a workplace and potentially even take the first steps towards your future career. Here’s how to impress your new colleagues and leverage your internship for the greatest benefit.
1.Treat it like a real job – and dress the part
If your internship is unpaid, or only covers expenses, in the UK it’s illegal for employers to require you to treat it like a job. You can’t have set hours, objectives or tasks that you’re required to complete each day, and if the company where you’re interning does requiring these things, then they’re breaking the law.
That said, even though your employer can’t require these things of you, that doesn’t mean you can’t require them of yourself. Indeed, if you want to use your internship to get some real work experience, you should; part of the point of an internship is learning what it’s like to be a real employee of a business. Not to mention that if you don’t take it seriously, there’s much less chance of your internship resulting in a valuable reference or job offer further down the line.
Treating your internship like a real job means showing up on time and leaving when the rest of your team does, even if that means leaving late. It also means dressing professionally; if you’re not sure what’s appropriate, ask if there’s a dress code before starting, and then follow the lead of your colleagues.
2. Make yourself indispensable
If you want to get a job offer as a result of your internship, this is how to do it – though it’s easier said than done. The key is to find a task that needs doing and isn’t currently being done, and then make doing it your top priority. What exactly that means will depend significantly on your role. Perhaps you’re going to be the one to figure out how to make the tricky reporting software do what it should, or perhaps there’s a skill you have that is lacking in the rest of the team.
There may even be things that you can do that are so common in your generation that you don’t think of them as skills, like establishing a good presence on Instagram or taking great photos on a mobile phone. If your colleagues are older, they might find your understanding of technology invaluable, even if you don’t think of it as out of the ordinary.
3. But don’t refuse the “intern” tasks
Companies do increasingly recognise that it’s unfair to take on an intern only to leave them spending their whole time filing, photocopying, or taking out the dry cleaning – especially when there’s no guarantee of a job at the end of it. At the same time, there will still be some menial tasks that need doing, and you may be the one asked to do them. These things aren’t exciting or fun, but then, nor are many of the tasks you’d be performing if you were a full employee, and a company thinking of hiring you will want to know that you’ll do the tasks given to you uncomplainingly.
There can still be room to impress in the boring tasks, as well. Perhaps you’ve noticed efficiencies that could be made in the filing system; if so, point them out! (Though whatever you do, don’t make changes to someone else’s filing system without asking their permission first). And even if there’s nothing you can improve on, these tasks give you an opportunity to interact with colleagues and demonstrate your courtesy, competence and professionalism.
4. Ask questions and be curious
You might feel nervous about asking questions because you don’t want to seem ignorant or waste anyone’s time, but remember: you are there to learn. If you ask intelligent, interested questions, then you shouldn’t find that anyone objects to taking the time to answer them. Remember that you’re there for your own sake as well as your employer’s. If you’re worried that your questions will sound rude, keep them polite by framing them positively; for instance, if you’re given a task, you can say, “that sounds great, I’ll start right away. Can I ask why we’re doing this?” That sounds better than simply leading straight in with asking why.
Things that can be worth finding out about: what’s the structure of the company? How many people would one manager typically line-manage? Who are their biggest competitors and what is their USP? What are their priorities over the next few years? Obviously you shouldn’t just sit there firing off questions, but ask when it seems appropriate to do so. An intelligent question can go a long way to impressing an employer, too.
5. Make friends and enjoy yourself
Sometimes you end up with a job offer after an internship not because you asked all the right questions, did great work or impressed the senior management team, but instead simply because someone, a couple of months or a year later, recalled that they enjoyed working with you, and reached out to you when they were hiring. Though it may seem unimportant, how you act on coffee breaks or at lunchtime can make just as much of a difference to impressing your new colleagues. After all, if you’re doing mostly entry-level tasks – which is likely – it can be hard to do them much better than interns they’ve had previously. Being friendly and personable can make you stand out.
One of the best ways to do this can simply be to do your best to enjoy yourself. Your colleagues will inevitably find you more pleasant to be around if you seem like you’re having a good time being there. It’s OK not to spend all of your time concentrating on the task at hand and to enjoy the social aspects of the workplace as well (within reason, of course). Demonstrating that you can find the right balance between the two, and enjoy your work as well, shows that you could be their perfect hire.