This feature blog post was written by Shelly Marie Redmond, MS, RD, LDN, the Executive Director and CEO of CollegeLifestyles.org. If you have questions for Shelly, please comment on her blog and happy reading interns!
Semesters before graduation, students are scouring the ‘want ads’ for not a job, but for an internship. Study after study shows us the importance of an internship before graduating. Some quote how an internship can lead to a job at the same organization you had the internship (IE - get your foot in the door), some quote the troubled economy and how an internship can give you experience compared to the non-internship seeking student. I fully believe both to be true - I was awarded a position at a hospital where I was an intern.
While I fully agree internships are important, I have to disagree and even laugh at some of the teachings offered to us by either articles, speakers, and books on ‘how to be a great intern.’ My favorites include ‘you don’t want an internship where you get coffee’ and ‘a no making copies internship.’ My favorite is, ‘Show up on time.‘ (PS - I make my own and ‘get’ my own coffee, so what does that make me?) As a business owner and former intern, the above comments not only insult my intelligence, but also the intelligence of the over 75 interns who have graced the doors of College Lifestyles.
My name is Shelly Marie Redmond, and I am the Executive Director/CEO of College Lifestyles. At College Lifestyles, I have had the pleasure of working with over 75 interns. I believe I have worked with some of the most wonderful interns, and the rules I am giving you relate not only how I approached my internship, but the same discussion I have with the College Lifestyles interns in their ‘orientation.’ Does it work? Ask the CL Interns who went on to intern for Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, OK! Magazine, and Weber Shadwick, or the ones who currently work in advertising and PR. It is my wish for all to be successful and do know simply being an intern does not always grant success. Own your success or as Bethany Frankel says in her book A Place of Yes, ‘Act on it!‘ Act on being a successful intern. Whether your internship is in person OR virtual, you can ‘Act on’ all 5 of these rules.
ACT on the following rules for your future SUCCESS:
1. Get ‘intern’ organized.
Many of us have a great planner, but intern organization goes further than a planner. Create a work folder on your computer and in your email settings. Create a specific email address for your internship. Program all important phone numbers into your phone (you never know if you will be stuck in traffic). Carry a notebook and write everything down. You will feel more confident since you can file your work in the same location and your notes will be in the same place.
2. Understand office policies.
Learn the day in and day out of the office. What is the phone greeting? Are group meetings held on Wednesday at 9am? Does the boss like updates after lunch? Do you need to update your boss daily, weekly, etc on your workload? What is the policy on bringing lunch and/or snacks? Does the office shut down for lunch OR during a group meeting? How do you address the boss and/or staff? Is email the primary form of communication? Does the office participate in casual Fridays? When a project is due on Friday, is due at 8am or 4pm. Learn these quickly to show the staff your dedication and understanding of the team organization.
3. Learn the office ‘technology.’
This is not the time for the Mac vs PC question. Instead, learn the actual technology of the office. Do you need to attend an HR computer workshop before the internship starts? Are you assigned a specific pass code to use computers? Are projects due on PDF forms, Word, or Pages? Do you have your own office email? Do you share a computer with other interns? If you are struggling with the technology, be honest with your supervisor and offer to take a class or a sit down with another employee to learn how the office utilizes technology. Understanding the technology will all you to complete projects and assignments effectively and efficiently.
4. Set your schedule with your boss/supervisor IMMEDIATELY.
Ask your supervisor/boss not only what meetings to attend, but also express the desire to attend events/meetings on your non-internship days. Ask you boss when you should go to lunch or break. Set the due dates of your projects. Discuss any school conflicts (mid-term/final exam week). Setting your schedule will show your commitment to the internship.
5. Leave a LEGACY.
Follow rules 1-4 to a tee! Introduce yourself to everyone. Write EVERYTHING down. Attend every event you can. Create and execute incredible work. Turn in projects EARLY. Send a thank you note when you leave. This professional behavior leave a lasting impression with your boss/supervisor and could possibly, possibly lead to a future position. (you will read about this in my ‘personal’ internship article to come).