How to Make the Most of an Internship (from an internship supervisor!)

I’ve been the internship manager at my agency for two years, and it’s the most rewarding part of my job. Getting to work with and help students every semester is so fulfilling. I’ve directly supervised about 50 interns so far, and noticed common themes that make an intern’s time with us most effective and valuable.

Based on this experience, I’ve compiled….

Top 5 tips for you to make the most out of an internship!

Be enthusiastic and genuinely interested

This is hands down the #1 key in getting the most out of an internship.

Whether you realize it or not, your attitude (positive or negative) is silently communicated to everyone you work with. Supervisors can tell when you’re interested in the work you’re doing, and in turn they will be more enthusiastic to work with you. No one wants to work with someone giving off the sense that they don’t want to be there — people gravitate towards positive energy. An energetic approach to your internship will also help you learn more, which is the point, isn’t it?

Don’t be afraid to ask questions about your assignments

If you have questions, you have to ask — don’t assume. Not only does assuming leave room for mistakes, it robs you of a valuable learning experience. It’s more frustrating for a supervisor to receive an assignment that completely missed the mark than to answer a few questions that could have cleared up confusion in the first place.

If you’re nervous of looking like you’re unprepared, take the following steps:

  • Remind yourself that you’re an intern, and you’re there to learn!
  • Review all the background information you have, and think critically about what you think you’re expected to do.
  • Then, verbalize to your supervisor what you think is expected. Ask, “I just wanted to make sure I’m understanding this correctly — are you asking me to do XYZ?” This shows that you were paying attention and have an idea of what’s expected, but you’re conscientious enough to follow up and make sure.

Talk to your supervisor(s) about the industry

I’ve had many interns ask me and my colleagues questions about our work, whether it’s for a class assignment or their own personal knowledge. Through these insightful conversations, you get the perspective of someone already in the industry you’re interested in. In schools, occasionally a speaker will give a lecture and you may get the chance to ask a question at the end. In an internship, you have industry professionals at your disposal. Speaking to your supervisor about their job shows you’re a conscientious intern that’s interested in learning. You get more knowledge beyond just completing your assignments, and maybe talking to someone in the industry will give you a better idea of what kind of career path you’d like to pursue after graduation. (Also, most people are flattered when someone wants to talk to them about their career path!)

Meet with people in other positions at the company

If you’re interning at a company that has multiple departments, you may be interested in what some of the other employees do on a daily basis. For example, I’m in charge of the public relations internship program, but I’ve had plenty of interns speak with our advertising team.

Ask your direct supervisor if you could meet with someone in a role that interests you, and they can most likely set it up for you. This gives you the opportunity to see how coworkers do different tasks within a company to all achieve the same goal. They have different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives. There’s so much information at your disposal if you make an effort to pursue it. There may even be roles you never knew existed that interest you.

Go above what is expected

Your role as an intern probably has outlined tasks and expectations. If you’re doing the internship for credit, the same thing applies for your college or university. To make the most out of your internship, take it a step further — don’t just do the minimum.

  • Whether or not you’re not doing the internship for college credit, write down everything you learn and all the assignments you worked on. As time goes on, it’s easy to forget the details. If you keep track, you can add those skills and experiences to your resume and portfolio.
  • Keep an eye out for articles related to the company you’re interning for, their industry, or their clients. When you see a relevant article, share it with your supervisors with a brief message. This simple gesture shows you’re engaged and involved with the internship even when you’re not at the office.
  • Brainstorm ideas for clients that your supervisors may appreciate. As an intern, you have a fresh, unique perspective on things. Don’t assume no one at the company has considered your idea; approach it as a conversation starter about something you’re genuinely curious about and want to help with.
  • Lastly, simply ask if you can do more. Approaching your supervisor and asking, “is there anything else I can do to help you guys?” shows you’re engaged and there to help. Even if their answer is no, you’ve demonstrated that you’re an active and conscientious intern.

 

And those are my top 5 tips! When you make the most out of an internship, the more likely it is that:

  • Supervisors will remember you. Many companies have lots of interns over the course of time, and you want to be one that the supervisors remember. Keeping in touch is also so important.
  • They’ll give you a good reference. If you feel you have a solid relationship and ask your supervisors to be references, they may give the glowing reference you deserve!
  • The company will in touch with future opportunities. Whether the opportunity is at the company you interned for or another, if your former employers think highly of you, they may share with you potential employment opportunities.

As you can tell, this is a subject I feel passionately about. If you ever need internship advice, there are so many resources out there for you! Now get out there, and make the most out of this amazing learning opportunity.


Erin Ford is a public relations account executive and has been blogging for many years. While attending Penn State, she discovered a love for Women’s studies, which she found empowering and illuminating, and graduated with a minor in the subject. Since then, she finds fulfillment in speaking up about issues impacting women and girls, and believes that through honest conversations everyone can be empowered to do the same.

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