While some of you may be well into your careers and past the point of working for free, many of you may just be starting out. Often, the best way to get experience is through an internship or volunteer position. No matter how great your academic classes or professors, there is just no substitute for getting in there and getting your hands dirty. If you have a summer internship lined up, here are some tips for getting the most out of your experience and standing out among your peers. Note that these tips are also helpful for anyone just starting out at a new job.
Your Goals for the Summer
Before you begin your internship, try to take some time to write out your goals and what experience you hope to gain, e.g., observe a negotiation or get a writing sample. Share these goals with your supervisor so that he/she can provide you with the right learning opportunities. At the end of your internship, you should have three key things:
- Practical skills you can use in your next job
- Contacts you can reach out to for future job searches
- A glowing recommendation from your supervisor
Tips for Making a Good Impression
Making a good impression is very important, but luckily, not so difficult to do. Here are some tips to help you stand out this summer.
Take all of your assignments seriously. No matter how big or small your assignment, do everything with care and diligence and assume everything is important. Listen carefully to instructions, clarify deadlines, ask questions if you are confused, and proof read everything you send out or submit.
Always carry a pad and pen. You never know when your next assignment will come, so always have a pad and pen ready. You can also use it to jot down notes, questions, and observations you make throughout the day. Bonus: it will make you look busy all the time!
Get to know as many people as possible. If you can, visit your summer employer before your internship begins so that you can start to meet your new colleagues. It will make your first day far less intimidating if you can walk in and see some familiar faces. Try to also work for as many people as possible throughout the summer so that you can observe different styles, get a variety of experiences, and have more relationships to leverage down the road.
Be nice to support staff. Assistants and secretaries can often be your most important allies in an organization. Take the time to learn the names of support staff, thank them for any assistance they offer, and remember that their opinions of you matter, too. In short, be nice to everyone with whom you work, regardless of their role.
Ask for Feedback. After you complete an assignment, ask your supervisor for feedback. This will help you determine if you’re doing a good job, as well as identify areas where you can improve. You should try to get specific feedback for every assignment, but at a minimum, make sure you have a check-in at the midway point of your internship, as well as at the end.
Go Above and Beyond. Treat your job description as the minimum requirements of your job. Look for additional opportunities to showcase the value you bring to the organization. Show up early, stay late if needed, ask colleagues if you can help them with projects when you have downtime between assignments and give them a work product that exceeds expectations.
Be Enthusiastic. There is no substitute for good work, but never underestimate the importance of displaying enthusiasm in everything you do. Exhibit an upbeat personality, be a team player, and never think that any task is beneath you.
Find a Mentor. Mentors are valuable at every stage of your career. Find someone within your organization whom you admire who can offer you guidance, advice, and support throughout your internship and as you continue to develop your career.
Dress the Part. Every office has a different culture and dress code. Learn your office’s dress code and dress accordingly. If you’re unsure, ask!
Attend Social Events. Throughout the summer, you may be invited to attend events outside of work. Make an effort to attend. It will show your enthusiasm and give you an opportunity to meet other attorneys outside of your immediate circle. However, even if you’re in a social setting, remember that you are still at work and should behave professionally at all times.
Keep up with your current awareness. Read newspapers and trade publications to stay on top of developments affecting your area of business. If you come across an interesting article, share it with your supervisor and colleagues.
Keep records of what you did. Hopefully, you will get to try your hand at a number of different tasks. Keep records of everything you do throughout the summer and any significant accomplishments. This will come in handy when updating your resume, as well as when you meet with your supervisor at the end of the summer. You can also use your records to reflect on what you enjoyed doing and what you didn’t, which can help guide your next job search.
Have fun! Work hard, but also make time for yourself and for friends and family. Go to the movies, get some exercise, read a fun book and make sure to get some downtime so you are refreshed and recharged for the fall.