Summer at SHRM: 6 Tips for Your First Internship Experience

So you listened to my internship-search advice, had a great resume, nailed the interview and got offered your dream internship position. Congratulations! With all the excitement you are feeling, I’m sure you are also nervous. I definitely was. It’s overwhelming to begin any new job, and it’s even more intimidating beginning your first internship. At first it seems like you need a survival guide to figure out how to do your best at your internship. But don’t fret—go in with a positive attitude and you will have a rewarding experience.

Here are six tips to get the most out of your internship:

  1.       Put down the celebrity gossip magazines and pick up business journals. I totally understand the temptation of these magazines—they are mindless and easy to read. But that’s the problem: You get absolutely nothing of any substance out of those. Instead, invest in a subscription to the Wall Street Journal or some other business publication. It will help you understand how political and business issues affect your job and life. Think about it—is it more important to know that Kim what’s-her-name ate a salad and Greek yogurt for lunch or to learn something that is crucial for the development of your career?
  2.      Save your band T-shirts and body-con skirts for nights out on the town, and invest in professional clothing that will last a long time. Professional dress will give off the impression that you are a responsible young adult, and I’m sure that’s how you want to be perceived in your workplace. So get a couple of good ties or a few classic pencil skirts. When you dress well, you feel good—and that will positively affect your work performance. So go hit the outlet mall. You’ve got shopping to do!
  3.      Do not assume that because you got the internship, you are done with networking. This is a crucial time to form lasting relationships with your fellow interns and supervisors. Building a network at your current workplace is important for your career. You never know who could help you with future opportunities—or who you could help. So eat lunch in the break room with other interns and ask your supervisors for career advice. Not only will this help you, but it also can make your workplace fun! It’s great to have co-workers with whom you can share laughs. Get out of your cube and start networking.
  4.      Make sure you do not take bad college habits into your internship. It’s safe to say that most college students have spent at least one coffee-fueled night desperately typing out a paper, 12 hours before it’s due. Resolve not to do this at your internship. Instead, plan out how you are going to approach completing your projects. Make a timeline that allows for brainstorming, organizing and proofreading your assignment. Completing projects in a timely manner will guarantee good results.
  5.      Brush any insecurities aside and ask questions when you are confused. In a world where seemingly any question can be answered through a Google search, you might be intimidated to ask for help when you need it. But no one is going to think you are incapable or stupid. Actually, asking for help creates the opposite reaction: People admire those who know when they need help. Instead of doing an assignment incorrectly or not doing it at all, send an e-mail to your supervisor or ask the co-worker next to you for some support. Remember, internships are supposed to be learning experiences, and asking questions is one of the best ways to learn!
  6.      To have a successful internship, you have to put in hard work. Do your job, do it on time and do it well. You are going to get what you give to this internship, so make sure you respect yourself and this opportunity enough to put 100 percent into it. In November, when you are long done with your summer internship, it will feel good to look back at your experience and be able to honestly say that you did a darn good job.

Good luck with your internship, and remember that your hard work is an investment that will yield many positive returns down the road. 

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