I have the honor to be a mentor for Summer on the Cuyahoga, a summer internship program designed to show all Cleveland has to offer to students from top regional schools such as Cornell, University of Chicago, and Case Western Reserve University (my alma mater). When asked to provide some internship tips, I had more difficulty than I’d imagined. It is hard to remember what’s obvious to me now but might be helpful to a summer intern. On the other hand, I don’t want to spew platitudes — I am sure they’ve learned to show up on time, for example. Here are my top tips for summer interns. Do you have more? I would love to hear about them in the comments.
1. Do Your Homework. Internships offer work experience that can’t be replicated in the classroom. But a lot of what you’ll learn is readily available outside the organization – especially for public companies. Don’t ask easily Googleable questions such as “How many employees are here?” or “When did this new company get acquired?” This makes you look dependent on your supervisor for any information you get. Show that you can take initiative and get answers on your own.
2. Always Be Learning. This is similar to the above point in that you cannot expect your supervisor to teach you everything about the industry. Be curious. If you’re interning at a hospital, subscribe to Kaiser Health News or the Health Affairs blog. Tech startup? Try Techcrunch. Industry trends will influence your work more often than you think, and you will really impress people if you can tie your “tree” of an internship to the “forest” of industry trends.
3. Don’t Interrupt. This sounds obvious, but it’s true. You are low in the pecking order. This doesn’t mean you should be afraid to speak up — quite the opposite — but you do need to know when to speak. If your supervisor is speaking to a colleague, allow them to finish speaking. Do not walk into your boss’s office and assume his world stops turning. If you absolutely must interrupt, say “Excuse me” and offer a reason. As an old business professor used to say, “It’s just good manners.”
4. Don’t Know? Say So. As an intern, you are likely a student — and students learn. Most people at the office will be happy to explain things to you. I enjoy how it forces me to frame things simply. It’s easier to explain things at the outset than after several frustrated attempts. This will show that you are humble and eager to improve.
5. Get Out There. Regardless of your daytime tasks — social media, dashboarding, database administration — good interns have after-work activities, too. Ask a recent graduate at the company about young professional groups and find some receptions to attend. Contact the local chapter of your alumni association for meetups. Blog about what you are learning. Business is increasingly about providing value to your network — so after you’ve learned valuable skills during the day, spread them after work.
Good luck to the SOTC interns!
What tips do you have for summer interns? Share below in the comments.
Photo courtesy user StartupStockPhotos on Pixabay.