Internships aren’t typically known for their prestige. When you hear “intern” your mind might go straight to coffee runs and menial jobs no one else wants to do, and maybe, businesses who want some affordable (or free) labor. Even though some of the stereotypes are exaggerated, there’s definite truth to the fact that an internship, even if it’s at Vogue (or maybe especially if it’s at Vogue) is usually not a very glamorous position, and more often than not, pays almost nothing, if not literally nothing!
It’s also no secret that internships are one of the very best ways to get your foot in the door of your desired career, to make contacts, collect references and to boost that all important “Experience” part of your resume. So even if you do spend half your time running to Starbucks, the benefits of a quality internship usually far outweigh the negatives.
Over the past 10 years, I’ve been on both sides of the internship process. I have interned several times and I’ve hired interns as both a magazine editor and for my blog, AppleBrides.com. I’ve learned one very valuable lesson along the way: no matter what company it is, an internship is 100% what you make of it. You can be interning at the best company in the world (Google reportedly pays their interns $6,000 a month!) and completely waste the opportunity, or you can be working at a place that sees you as a glorified barista and end up getting a full time job out of it.
Bottom line, if you’re going to be slaving away valuable months of your life, be sure you are getting every single thing out of it you can. Here are some practical tips for impressing your boss, ensuring you get what you need and, hopefully, getting a job!
1. Be the first in and the last out.
Right out of college, I got an internship at a small trade magazine. The pay was zero, they didn’t cover expenses and they expected me to be there five days a week, from 9am-5pm, and because the publication was small, I knew the chances of a full time job at that end of it were extremely slim.
Even though I wasn’t excited about it, I decided to make the most of the opportunity. Most days I felt completely undervalued, they gave me very little to do and the editor hardly spoke to me. I thought the whole summer was a complete waste, until the last day. The editor wrote me a letter of reference saying I was one of the best interns he’d ever had because I came in early every day (usually before him, which he noted) and left after everyone else. I didn’t even know he noticed! His letter of reference led to a full time job at the magazine’s sister publication.
This experience taught me that even though your talent and skills are important, it’s almost equally important to employers to hire people who are faithful employees. Treat your internship like a paying job, show up on time, don’t cut out early and you will get noticed.
2. Take initiative.
Your boss is busy and they might not have time to constantly check in with you. So if you don’t have anything to do, take matters into your own hands and try to find something to do, whether it’s a task you know needs to be done (even if it’s something like taking out the garbage) or asking your boss if they have another job or assignment for you. This simple gesture says volumes about your work ethic and tells them how badly you want to work there.
Always try and put yourself in your boss’s shoes. Your internship might be one of the highlights of your career, but to them you are probably one of many interns to come through the door. So if they don’t seem to be taking an interest in you, instead of getting deflated, try and think of ways to stand out and impress them.
3. Follow instructions.
This one seems obvious, but attention to detail is a major selling point for employees because it shows your superiors that you are trustworthy, no matter how small the task. So whether you’re asked to drop off dry cleaning or write a social media strategy, be sure you’re thorough and follow the directions completely.
4. Exceed Expectations.
Anytime you get a project from your boss, be sure to go the extra mile in completing it. Do extra research, double check the grammar, present options and, whatever you do, never cut corners.
A couple years ago when I was hiring an intern for Apple Brides, I asked applicants to send me a couple post ideas with their resume. One applicant included bullet points outlining the flow of each post idea and photo suggestions to go along with each one! I was so impressed with her eagerness that I hired her right away.
By going above and beyond the expectations of your boss, you are showing your passion for the work you’re doing and that you understand what it takes to get a job done.
5. Take a genuine interest in the job.
Your internship is not just for your employer, it’s also designed (or should be) to help you grow in your skills and experience. So be sure to learn as much as you can. You obviously don’t want to be a burden to your supervisor, but it’s ok to ask questions, ask to sit in on meetings or job shadow different positions in the company to grow your skill set. Always be thinking about what you will be able to add to your resume after the internship is over.
When your internship is coming to a close, schedule a meeting with your boss to get feedback, ask about any job opportunities in the company and, this is important, ask them to be a reference for your resume! You’ve put months of hard work into your internship, so you might as well make it worth your while.