Draft the perfect resume. Make connections. Prep for your interview. These are all things students looking for internships hear over and over again. But what happens when you actually land your dream internship?
Just in time for the start of summer internship season, Director of Career Services Courtney Fitzgibbons sat down to shed some light on the things students may not have been told before about making a lasting impression.
Solidify your schedule as soon as possible
College students are used to having their schedules clearly laid out for them each semester. That means having off for smaller holidays, as well as the all-important spring and winter breaks. But sadly, employees in the workforce don’t get to enjoy a week off in the sun when things get stressful.
“Make sure you don’t treat the employer’s schedule like your own school schedule,” Fitzgibbons said. “You’ve made a commitment for certain hours. Be there as much as you can. And if you can’t, let them know as far in advance as you can.”
This means telling your employer about any spring break plans, doctors appointments, and other commitments as soon as you start. Although you may feel awkward requesting days off so quickly, your supervisor will appreciate the ample notice.
Fitzgibbons also suggests checking to see what days your employer is open. Just because campus is closed, that doesn’t mean your office building is! Similarly, an office may not be open on days class is in session. It’s best to learn these things ahead of time so you can properly manage your time and priorities each week.
It’s also important for your employer to know when exactly you’ll be leaving when the semester comes to an end. The last thing you want is for him or her to be caught by surprise by your absence.
Having free time during an internship means there’s nothing left for you to work on, right? Wrong. Employers are busy. They may be dealing with multiple things at once, and not realize that you have nothing to work on. Instead of scrolling through your Instagram feed or taking the latest Buzzfeed quiz, ask your supervisor how you can be productive!
“You’re not invisible,” Fitzgibbons said. “Even when you’re sitting there doing nothing, they’re noticing. And they’re noticing you haven’t done something or you haven’t spoken up.”
There’s no harm in asking your supervisor how you can help when you have free time. In fact, they’ll definitely appreciate the fact that you’re being proactive and looking for new assignments.
“People take notice of how you work more than you think,” said Junior TVDM major Kristie Keleshian. “That’s why it’s always important to give it your all, 100% of the time.”
Fitzgibbons also suggests stocking up on assignments if you know your supervisor will be out of the office. It’s always better to have some extra projects lined up just in case!
And if you have a heavy workload, it can’t hurt to get to the office a little early each morning to get settled. Staying a bit late to finish up any lingering assignments also shows your supervisor that you are hard working and serious about your commitment to the company. It’s little things like these that go a long way in making a good impression.
Dress your best
Knowing how to dress for your first day on the job can be extremely nerve-wracking. To avoid any confusion, it’s never a bad idea to talk to your supervisor about proper attire before you start. Even when an office environment is on the casual side, it’s best to dress a little nicer.
“Check the pulse of what the attire is for the business, and make sure that you’re dressing appropriately,” Fitzgibbons said.
You may not have to wear a suit and tie every day, but wearing jeans and a t-shirt will definitely make you stand out – in a bad way.
Stay away from office gossip
Making friends with the other interns is a great idea. You never know if you’ll be working alongside them one day in your future career. But making friends by gossiping is not such a great idea. Talking about other interns or co-workers is unprofessional and can greatly hurt your chances of being hired down the line.
“When you’re an intern, you are still being evaluated,” Fitzgibbons said. “You’re being evaluated everyday. It’s almost like an eight week job interview.”
If you wouldn’t gossip about the person sitting next to you in an interview, you shouldn’t gossip about anyone in the office once you actually secure the position.
Make every draft your best draft
When writing a paper, professors often encourage students to create multiple drafts before handing in the final product to make sure it’s their best work. The same should be done in the workplace when handing in any written assignments.
“They’ll say send me what you have,” Fitzgibbons said. “Be careful about sending somebody a really rough draft because you’ll still be evaluated on your rough draft.”
Every piece of work your supervisor receives from you should be your absolute best. Even if they encourage you to hand something in before it’s finished, double and triple check it for factual and grammatical errors. And when in doubt, ask someone in the office if they could look it over for you before handing it in.
If you’re not sure – ask
Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you don’t completely understand an assignment. Of course, you don’t want to ask questions every few minutes, but your supervisor will appreciate the fact that you want to avoid making mistakes.
“In my opinion, the most important thing you can do to stand out to an employer would be to take initiative and ask questions,” said Senior Stephanie Russo, who is currently a music and general production intern at The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. “Honestly, no question is a dumb question when you’re an intern. Staff love seeing interns show their curiosity and prove that they want to know more. Also, a lot of the time you get told to do a project, and you’ll nod your head to your supervisor as if you know what they are talking about. And then you walk away clueless. Not asking questions will only hurt you in the long run.”
Keleshian echoed this sentiment, learning the importance of asking questions as an intern on Rachael Ray. “It’s very important to ask questions and make sure the answer you get makes you confident enough to continue whatever you’re doing. Even if that means asking another question,” Keleshian said. “I had to take a guest on the show to a green room and took her to the wrong one! I asked beforehand which room to take her to, and just assumed [the rest] because I wasn’t sure.”
Double check assignment instructions
If you ever played telephone as a kid, you know how easily things can get lost through lines of communication. Make sure to double-check the details of every assignment with your supervisor. “It’s a good idea to repeat back the assignment to them,” says Fitzgibbons. He or she will appreciate the fact that you are striving for perfection.
Keep your phone fully charged at all times
And not for texting purposes! This is especially important for students in arts-related majors, where you may need your phone to take photos, record interviews, or check how to get to the nearest form of public transportation.
But aside from texting and checking social media, there is one other thing students should not be doing on their phones – taking notes. Fitzgibbons advises students against taking notes on a cellphone, as it can be a turn-off for supervisors and potential employers.
Always carry a notebook and a pen
You never want to look like the intern that is unprepared. “If you’re ever going into somebody’s office, carry a notepad with you, and a pen in case they ever want you to take down notes for something,” suggests Fitzgibbons. Employers want to hire those who are best prepared to take on busy schedules, and a good indicator of this is being well organized. A small notepad is easy to keep in your bag or pocket. All you need is something big enough to jot down addresses, phone numbers, and other assignment details.
Never assume deadlines
Supervisors are busy. This means they may not always give you every detail you need to properly complete a task. If your supervisor doesn’t give you a deadline for an assignment, it’s always best to ask when they need it completed by. After all, an assignment due by the end of the day should be much higher priority than one due at the end of the week.
Your supervisor may assume that you know when something is due, but you should never assume the same. The last thing you want is for someone to ask for an assignment you haven’t even started. To avoid any confusion, check to see when a task is due as soon as you receive it.
For any other questions on making the most of your internship, be sure to stop by Courtney Fitzgibbons in Career Services!
Montclair State | New Jersey