10 Tips to Ensure a Successful Internship

An intern at her office.

If your manager doesn’t set up a meeting with you, ask to get on their calendar to discuss internship expectations, timelines and measurements for success.(CREDIT: PHOTOALTO/LAURENCE MOUTON)

AFTER SEARCHING FOR months, you finally landed your internship! Congratulations. But what will you do in the first few weeks to make sure you’re successful?

You may think that working hard is enough to earn respect. That’s certainly part of the equation. However, your success relies on many factors and doing your job well is just one.

Before you begin your internship, think about what you hope to learn from the experience. What skills, processes or knowledge do you want to acquire? When you have an idea of what you expect to get out of your internship, it’s more likely to be a win-win.

Create a plan for your first weeks in the internship. Map out how you will assimilate into your new role. You’ll also want to develop a list of questions in order to be successful. As you think about how you will make the most of your internship, keep these 10 actions in mind.

[See: The 25 Best Jobs of 2018.]

Meet with your manager. If you are lucky, your manager will ask to meet with you. However, if this meeting isn’t set up within the first few days, ask to get on your manager’s calendar. During this meeting, ask about your manager’s expectations of you and the job, timelines, measurements for success, key players you should meet in the organization and if there are any things you should avoid.

Observe team dynamics. Take note of the kinds of things your co-workers talk about in the break room, how they behave in front of managers and leaders and what the team does outside of work. When you observe the team dynamics, you’ll be able to better fit in. And fitting in is as important as doing your job well.

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The Step-by-Step Guide to Career Success

Align yourself with the right people. Carefully select the co-workers you choose to affiliate with. Watch out for the slackers or people who are not doing their job well. You can begin building professional connections with your fellow employees, but be very aware of the information you share and the impression you make. Avoid over-sharing personal information.

Build your personal brand. Starting an internship gives you the opportunity to wipe the slate clean of any baggage or past issues. Think about how you want to be perceived by your manager and team. What is the “brand” you want to bring into this new organization?

[See: Tips for Surviving a Career Transition.]

Keep learning. It is very easy to become so immersed in your work that you forget to keep your eye on what else is going on in the outside world. Make time to monitor your industry and continually develop new skills. While you will be expected to give 100 percent to your internship, don’t ever take your eyes off the bigger picture.

Don’t be a know-it-all. Every organization has a unique culture. As the new kid on the block, you have to earn the right to be heard. You may have an opportunity in the future to make suggestions for improvement, but don’t speak out too quickly. First, you must learn why the organization does things the way they do. Perhaps you can use this information to help a future company or at least help you select a company culture you will fit into best.

Track your accomplishments. You will need to document your achievements to include them on your LinkedIn profile and resume. You may even have a performance review at the conclusion of your internship. It may be difficult to recall past accomplishments after the fact, so keeping a running list will ensure you don’t forget.

Continue to network. Remember to keep in touch with all the people you met during your internship search. You will need them again. Meet up with people in the city where you are working. This might also be a good time to join a professional association to increase your knowledge, skills and network.

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