Being The Exceptional Intern

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It is one thing to land an internship, but it’s another to become the exceptional, above average, rock star intern who everybody wants to hire. Internships are competitive and candidates fight hard to earn a spot with the company, but how does your student keep from getting lost in the crowd? Being a rock star intern isn’t about being the smartest. It isn’t based on what college you go to. It isn’t even about grade point average. It is about showing up everyday and working hard. It is about doing many little things that matter a lot.

Listen and Learn

Encourage your student to learn all they can about the company they are interning for as well as the industry. They can learn by reading industry publications, listening to what happens in meetings, checking out the company website and social media pages, and reading internal company information. The more informed they are, the better questions, comments and suggestions they will have. When your student asks good questions, they will stand out for the right reasons. Good questions demonstrate a self-motivated person with a desire to learn. If the other interns aren’t showing interest in the company, product and/or industry, your student will shine brighter.

Little Things Matter

Show up on time (or early) not just for work but for every meeting. If an emergency comes up, make sure your student knows to call a supervisor as soon as possible to let them know they’ll be late. When necessary, they should be willing to show up early or stay late to get their work done. In addition to being on time, bonus points for showing up dressed professionally everyday. When headed to a meeting with anyone, always take a pen and paper. In the meeting, no talking or texting. If possible, don’t even take the phone into the meeting to avoid the temptation of looking at it. Lastly, encourage them smile, give a firm handshake and be a friendly person. Little things go a long way.

Double Check Your Work

When your student gets a new project, they need to ask questions for clarity to make sure they understand expectations. They should aspire to always work quickly, but to not sacrifice quality for speed. Attention to detail is a desired quality that many employers value. If a manager has to constantly correct their work, they will no doubt leave an impression, but not the kind you want. An intern is more likely to gain the trust of a manager sooner, if they demonstrate that they can work quickly but with limited mistakes. That trust can lead to more interesting projects with greater responsibility.

Take Initiative

If your son/daughter finds themselves without work to do, they should not resort to surfing the internet, playing games on a cell phone or walking around the office. Ask for more work. What is more impressive, is if they can begin to observe and think about projects that they can create. What employer doesn’t love a team member who brings fresh perspective and new ideas? Taking initiative to present an idea is a trait that will go a long way in making someone stand out as the ultimate intern. They will also learn that not every idea they present will be accepted and that they can’t take it personally. As they say, it is sometimes the thought that counts.

No One is Perfect

Learn to accept constructive criticism. No one is perfect and the manager isn’t expecting them to be. When they have meetings with a supervisor and receive feedback, it should be taken as a learning opportunity. Remaining teachable throughout the internship and inquiring about how to get better in weaker areas should be a goal.  The managers have been working at that company for some time, so your student should respect that they may not have all of the answers after two-weeks on the job. Employers like to hire people who are willing to listen, learn and improve.

If your student is still struggling to find an internship, here are five ways to find an internship even this late in the game.







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Written by Sharise

Sharise Kent is an internship expert and freelance writer. She has spent over 20 years in college admissions and career development. As the former manager of a national internship program, she oversaw the placement of 400+ interns with some of the biggest media companies in the world. She holds an MS in Professional Writing and a BA in Public Relations.



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