Your first internship can be an incredibly rewarding and formative experience— but it can also be very intimidating. Diving into the professional world for the first time can feel like diving headfirst into the deep end, but this doesn’t have to be the case. Read on for five key tips for a successful internship experience!
1. dress for success
The first thing you can do before you even walk in on the first day is ensure you have the appropriate attire to make you feel like your most confident, professional self. Fashion may feel like the last thing on your mind when beginning a new role, but equipping yourself with professional clothing that you’re comfortable in can give you that extra boost on your first day and beyond.
Be sure to do some research on your role to find out the dress code— if you’re in a law office, the expectations for what you wear may be drastically different from a newsroom or a tech space. Professional clothing doesn’t have to be boring, either. I’d suggest checking out Pinterest for some ideas on how to elevate capsule wardrobe classics!
2. Fake it ’till you make it
To a college student, the “real” professional world can feel intimidating and downright scary. At some point, however, you realize that no one fully feels like they know what they’re doing (especially not at first). You just have to fake it ’till you make it.
So, what does this look like for your internship? Be observant. Take in how those you admire act and emulate that in your work. But most importantly, exude confidence— even if inside all you’re feeling is major anxiety. Our thoughts become our reality, and if you project confidence in yourself and in your work, eventually it will pay off.
3. take advantage of being new
As important as “faking it ’till you make it” is, you also have to embrace being new— it doesn’t last forever. Do not be afraid to ask questions. Everyone understands that you’re an intern who is there to learn, and it is going to take a while to learn the ropes of any role. Ask that burning question now, no matter how intimidating it may be, because if you don’t, it is going to be even harder to ask it a month down the line.
Never feel silly or stupid for having questions and wanting to learn! Your managers and coworkers will appreciate your honesty and curiosity, and it will only serve to make you a better worker and person.
4. differentiate yourself
In today’s competitive work environment it is not enough to be a competent worker. You have to stand out and differentiate yourself as a hard worker who is willing to go the extra mile. The best way to do this in your internship is to be proactive. Finished your assignment a little early? Ask your manager if there is anything else you can help work on. There’s a big meeting about the new merger? See if you can sit in and observe. A new person joins the team? Set up a call to introduce yourself and offer your services if applicable.
It’s the little things that stay with people— if you establish yourself as a dedicated and passionate worker, you will be remembered that way. Furthermore, if your work is high-quality and you become an integral part of the team, when your internship is over they will be that much more likely to recommend you for a role down the line!
5. network, network, network
The technical and transferrable skills you learn at your internship are invaluable. However, the most important thing you will bring with you at the end of your time at a company is your professional contacts. Each person you work with brings their own wealth of experiences and knowledge in the professional sphere, and your internship is an opportunity to learn from your coworkers! Not only will you learn about the company you’re working for, but you can also gain knowledge and tips about the industry as a whole.
Schedule one-on-ones or informational interviews as often as your role allows. This doesn’t mean you should cold-email the CEO of your company— be mindful of others’ workload and time— but certainly reach out to those you work with directly for a quick “coffee chat” (even if it’s virtual).
Sample questions to ask in an informational interview:
- What made you decide to work in this industry?
- I’d love to hear a little bit about your career journey and how you ended up at X company!
- What does a typical day look like for you?
- What do you like most about your work?
- What is one thing you wish you knew as a young professional just starting out?
In addition to learning from your new professional network, you never know what the future holds— they just might help you land your dream role one day! It’s important to stay in touch even after your internship ends. I’d recommend adding your coworkers on Linkedin and keeping your profile up-to-date.
The most important thing to remember in your internship is: you’re there for a reason. You went through a rigorous application process, and they selected you because you are the most qualified candidate for the role. Don’t let imposter syndrome get the best of you— you got this!