Advice For Interns – How To Avoid Looking Like a Wallflower or Obnoxious Punk, and Get The Most Out of Your Internship

Advice for Interns

Here is some advice for interns on how to get the most out of your experience and avoid looking like a shrinking violet or a self-serving tool.

Most interns are intimidated by the new environment.  This causes them to be tentative and a bit withdrawn.  This is totally normal for the first few days.  However, if this withdrawal and shyness lasts more than a few days, it can be deadly to the experience if the intern has an indifferent or overwhelmed boss.  The intern can get completely lost and ignored and just shuffle through the day, week after week.  If you are too shy, at some point your supervisor will write you off as hardly worth their time.  Frankly, some interns find this an ideal scenario as it means that won’t be called upon to do much work.  It’s a total waste, however, and here are some suggestions to ensure you avoid that trap.

Key Advice For Interns – Don’t Wait For Your Supervisors To Make It Happen

  • This brings me to the first piece of advice for interns.  Be proactive.  If you are getting lost in the shuffle (or even if you aren’t), just go to you supervisor and ask if there is anything you can help out with.  If you are spending day after day with nothing to do, make some noise and keep pushing for taskings.  If that gets you nowhere, ask someone else if there is anything you can do.  If there is an interesting meeting taking place, ask if you can tag along.
  • If you really want to go gonzo, ask for a work requirements statement that maps out your overall responsibilities and specific goals for the internship.  This will force your supervisors to actually get organized and build some structure into your time with the organization.  After a couple of years supervising interns, I started creating a work requirements statement for the intern that looked quite professional.  It maybe took me ten minutes to write, but it made the intern feel more a part of the organization and gave him or her a clear map for what was expected during their internship.  We adjusted the statement on the fly as necessary, but it helped a lot.
  • More broadly, if there is an institution where you want to be an intern, reach out and express your specific interest.  I would do this initially via email directly to the person you would like to work for.  You can try to find them at the firm’s website or on LinkedIn.  Don’t be afraid to contact someone directly (in addition to and separate from the HR people, though you should be smart about how this is done to not tick off the HR section).

Alert – You Might Learn You Hate The Prospective Career

Internships can be amazing, and you will likely have a fantastic experience if you implement this simple advice.  About half the time, the intern realizes that the organization or career path is not for him or her.  That’s actually a great achievement as it is much better to use a couple of months to figure out what doesn’t work than a few years in a job as a new hire.

Bonus tip for interns: if you are feeling overwhelmed by the new environment and tasks you are are dealing with at the start of your internship, check out this post on how to Master The Learning Curve.

Good luck!

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