How to get ready for an internship program

Asako Maruoka's picture

Finding great summer internships can help your career in a plethora of ways. You can make excellent contacts, learn how to work in a business setting, ascertain if this is a good fit for you, gain knowledge about your chosen field, and more. Some students try to fit in summer internships in their summers before they graduate, so that they have a broad range of experience and contacts when they start their job search. 

But how do you get ready for an internship program? Here are 10 things you need to do:

 How to get ready for an internship program - 10 things you need to do

1.    Bring your academics up to speed 
You need to make sure your grades are indicative of how hard you can work, and how you are able to learn. If you need help with improving your grades, talk with your professors and TAs, fellow classmates, and even homework solvers.Look online for ways to learn and study better (such as these 5 tips), get enough sleep, stay hydrated, exercise, and eat well. Your brain will work best when your body is functioning at full capacity.

2.    Check your social media and online presence
All companies do a variety of research on their employees (including you!) before hiring them. They will look at all your social media accounts, so clean up your digital media footprint to look more professional. From now on, use social media and any interactions online (including email) as if any future employer were watching you. Remember, you can never erase something once it is on the internet. Be aware, and put your best foot forward online. 

3.    Do your research!
The best way to make a good impression? Do your research! One study abroad student prepared well for his experience in Germany – you need to do the same. Research the company and employees via their website and on LinkedIn. Dig into press releases, read trade journals, see how the field flows and uncover any trends that are happening. Being aware of who you are working for and with, and their presence and place in the field is critical to your success.

4.    Figure out the logistics
As with any job, you’ll want to be on time. Where will you live? How far away is your internship location? Will you need to move for the summer? How will you get there? Will you need to take public transportation? What time does your internship start every morning? What are the routes you need to get there, and how long does it take? If you need to make a coffee stop, do a dry run before you start, at that exact time, so you know how long the lines are and how long it will actually take you to get to work. You can’t be late. 

 How to get ready for an internship program: 10 things you need to do

5.    Be professional
Along with doing your research, you must act professional in any job. What does professional look like in your field, and in this company? What is the workplace etiquette? You will probably not be able to get on social media all day, even if your job is extremely boring or basic (some internships are!). You will also be expected to act in a business-like manner in speech, writing, and actions, so no text talk, casual slang, or unreliability. Be on time. Manners count in business, both for those whom you work with, and those you interact with on behalf of your company. And perhaps my biggest tip for professionalism: be respectful. 

6.    Attire
Along that same vein, what do people wear in this field? Find out and emulate it. You can be a creative, athletic, or fashionable dresser on your own time.

7.    Get enough sleep to be positive all day long
The biggest downer in any workplace is the crabby person. You don’t want to be that person – it will not reflect well upon you, and will definitely not end up as a good reference on your resume. Get enough sleep (and eat enough snacks) to be positive and energetic all day long.

8.    Kindness wins
One of the best things you can do is to be kind – to everyone. Act humbly, do the hard or boring stuff that no one wants to do, bring snacks and coffee to people, always have a smile and a greeting for everyone. Don’t gossip, or say unkind things. Be helpful, and do your job cheerfully and quickly. Be the ray of sunshine in the office – you will get noticed – and maybe even hired, when you graduate.

9.    Do your job
It might sound crazy to mention this, but be prepared to do your job. Whether it is copying and filing, answering phones, or taking notes, be good at it, and be reliable and finish on time. Ask for feedback, so you can improve. Expand your skills, and always be ready to learn more. Be a good listener, and a good helper and teacher – especially with skills you may have as a digital native, and older people in the office may not use frequently. Build trust by being trustworthy! If you make a mistake, own up to it right away and work hard with your boss to fix the problem. 

 How to get ready for an internship program - 10 things you need to do

10.   Have a plan
Have a long-term plan for your internship program. This could be as simple as learning new skills, or as long-term as this internship being a step in your long-term goals. Learn what people do in your organization – and your field. Ask for advice from people you see doing their job well, or loving what they are doing (hopefully, the same!). Be a sponge – ask questions, and soak it all in – this is a unique opportunity to test the waters and see if this field is a good fit for you. If you find someone you really click with, ask them to mentor you, so that you can learn more and gain a deeper perspective and additional skills. 

With this preparation in hand, you’ll be ready to work hard, make a difference, and learn a great deal from your internship. Good luck!