Making the Most of Your Summer Internship

Congratulations! If you’re reading this, you probably completed one of the most terrifying yet important tasks associated with being a student – landing a summer internship. That alone takes a large amount of work and dedication, so it’s important to make the most of the next few months. As a college graduate, I’ve spent multiple summers and semesters interning at various places. These experiences have taught me so many things that I never could have learned within a classroom and have helped me develop as a professional. In order to help you make the most of your summer internship, I compiled a list of my top tips for summer interns, specifically those who are working in an office because that’s where my experience lies.

Here’s to making your summer internship truly count – not just as another line on your resume, but as a valuable learning experience.

  1. Ask productive questions! You’re there, first and foremost, to learn about a particular field in a hands on way. Asking questions will allow you to produce work that fits your supervisor’s guidelines and standards, while helping you develop the confidence to tackle future projects on your own.
  2. Form relationships with your coworkers. One of the most important aspects of summer internships is networking. There’s the obvious benefit of potential job opportunities in the future, but even more importantly, developing close relationships with others in the office can help you understand workplace dynamics, learn more about the field, and have contacts to reach out to in the future. Plus, isn’t it so much more enjoyable going to work when you actually know the people sitting in the cubicles around you?
  3. Timing is everything! Show up 5 minutes early to your office in the morning, keep close track of your lunch hour and breaks, and make sure to get your work done in a productive fashion. It’s hard being the youngest in the office sometimes, but a professional attitude can prove your maturity.
  4. Make connections with your co-interns. If you’re lucky enough to have other interns in your office, take advantage of it! It helps to have a support system when you’re figuring out who to eat lunch with, who you need to email for a specific task, and how to fill out your time sheets. Plus, you may end up making a new friend!
  5. Dress professionally. Make sure to match the dress code of the office. Are nice jeans okay? Is a suit required? Ask your supervisor about what’s appropriate in your workplace before starting to make sure you dress the part! And if you’re still not sure, it’s always better to dress up a little bit at the beginning until you get a feel for attire in your office.
  6. Be friendly! In my office, it’s normal to say “good morning,” “hello,” and “good night” when you see someone, and it makes for a much happier work environment. Even if you’re shy, a simple smile while passing someone in the hallway makes you seem much more approachable and easy to work with than if you were to completely keep to yourself.
  7. Connect your tasks to a larger goal. Sometimes the tasks you complete in your internship seem relatively easy and mundane – filling out spreadsheets or making copies, for example. It’s helpful to always keep in mind that those tasks are essential to the larger project you’re contributing to, no matter how trivial they might seem. Think of yourself as part of the crew behind a theatre production – the star can’t go onstage unless the lighting, set, and sound are configured ahead of time.
  8. Don’t be afraid to speak up. Did you learn something in class that could solve a problem presented in a meeting? Do you have an idea for a project? Let your boss know. It shows that you have initiative and care about what you’re working on.
  9. Remember that it’s temporary – but has long term effects. Try not to think about your friends who are at the beach while you’re sitting in the office. Sometimes it’s hard to stay focused when you remember all the fun summer activities you could be doing, but also remember that this temporary internship could help you secure important longer-term success. You may have FOMO from that one beach day, but the lessons you learn and the connections you make at your internship will matter for much longer than riding the waves for a few hours.
  10. Always say “Thank You.” Be grateful for the opportunity you have! Your bosses have taken you under their wing for the summer to help you grow as a student and a professional. Make sure to communicate your gratitude throughout the summer, and at the end as well. I personally love hand-written thank you notes for adults who have mentored me – they show a level of respect and care that can’t always be communicated via email.

Do you have any other ideas for fellow summer interns? Have you tried any of these? Let us know in the Comments section!

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