You’re finally all set up with your housing and travel itinerary in your host country and are excited to explore the scenery and culture that this new place has to offer. However, you’re also probably a little nervous on what to expect from your internship and how to make a good impression.
First, take a deep breath, and take comfort in knowing that you’re definitely not the only one feeling this way.
Internships are the time for recent or soon-to-be graduates to shift their focus from the classroom to the real business world. It is the time where you get to really learn how to do what you want to do when you grow up. Once you step foot in that office, you have a small window to make a good impression, that will not only make the weekdays easier and more enjoyable, but will more importantly help open doors for you in the future.
Take it from someone who’s so recently been in the exact same place you are right now. Whether you are hoping for a permanent position or are just testing the waters of your future career, here are a few tips to help make a good impression at your internship and stay connected afterwards.
10 Tips on Making a Good Impression
1. Arrive Prepared
Be sure that before your first day, you’ve done your research on the company, your boss, and any current events in that country that could be talking points at your office. Instead of just showing up on day one, display your initiative by contacting your boss and asking if there is anything you can do to prepare beforehand. Right away, put the impression in their mind that you’re the type of intern that will go the extra mile.
2. Communicate What You Want
Be clear and communicate your available hours, learning outcomes, and pay (if applicable) before you step in the office. This just ensures that both you and your employer are on the same page. As your internship comes to an end, continue to keep the communication open asking for a review meeting, recommendations, or a potential job. This is your opportunity to get the most out of this time in your life, soak it up and go after it.
3. Get to Know Your Boss and Environment
Every company has a different type of work style and environment. Do your best at the beginning of the internship to get to know your boss and their needs, and try to adapt. What I learned is that even if you’re qualified, companies won’t hire you afterwards unless it “feels” right. Working styles need to blend together in order to be productive, so keep an eye out for how to best fit into that style.
4. Use Your Common Sense, Try to Figure Things Out for Yourself
One of the biggest things I learned at the very beginning of my internship was that my boss was not going to tell me how to do everything, I had to figure a lot of it out on my own. Being in an office isn’t like being in a classroom. Your employer will give you a project and general direction, but they want you to be able to take on the task and use your skill set to figure out the details on your own. Use your common sense at your internship!
Think of it this way: companies hire interns to assist in making their job easier, while also giving recent or current college students the opportunity to see the industry first hand. So, if you’re asking a bunch of questions and making it more difficult for your boss to have you there, they won’t respond well to that. Your goal is to immerse yourself in the industry as much as possible while making your bosses job seamless.
5. Go Above and Beyond
This is pretty obvious and easy to do, but some interns simply get lazy or don’t take advantage of it. Just go above and beyond in your work. The more your boss and the other employees like you, the easier and better your time will be. It’s really as simple as that.
6. Complete Your Tasks Well and Ask for More
One thing I did at my internship that I realized set me apart from the other interns was that I took on my tasks and completed them quickly and thoroughly. Once my daily task list was complete, I didn’t just sit around, I asked for more (even though my brain was exhausted). What I realized is that showing you have completed tasks, before they ask if you’re finished, is ideal and expected. But showing that you’re ready to take on more is what really makes the difference.
7. Take All Tasks Seriously
Let me preface this by saying, this is way easier said than done. As mundane as some internship tasks can be, they all need to be done. Everyone has to pay their dues at some point. Take on tasks, even if they are so small and seem unimportant, at all costs and do not complain about it! The better you complete the smaller tasks, the more they will trust that you can handle the more serious ones.
8. Try to Predict What Your Boss Wants and Do It Before
I learned quickly that bosses want you to know what tasks need to be completed before they tell you. If you know something is going to be coming your way soon and it falls under your responsibilities, get a head-start on it and begin preparing even before you’re asked. This is a surefire way to impress your boss and the other hire-ups. Just be careful on how far you go because there is a fine line between getting a jump on your tasks and stepping on other’s toes.
9. Become a Part of the Team
One of my biggest pieces of advice is to look at this as if it was your real, full-time paying job. Don’t just do the tasks that are handed to you, go through them and go home. Look at yourself as part of the team and work hard to make the rest of the company see you as such. Also, if you’re hoping to get a job after your internship is over, work hard to make the company feel like you’re an asset to the team and that without you it would be more difficult for them. This will make them feel like they can’t lose you.
10. Be Humble
With all the pieces of advice I have given above, the most important thing is to be humble. Work hard and let them come to their own conclusions that you are an asset to their team, don’t walk in there and tell them that. Everyone has to pay their dues at some point, so take it on, one thing at a time, stay humble, and show them how great you truly are!
Post Internship Tips
1. Write Thank You Notes Immediately
Some people recommend sending thank you notes the week after your internship is over. For an internship, abroad, I would leave thank you notes on everyone’s desk on your last day, just to ensure that they receive them. Plus, that way, you won’t forget or have to pay for international postage!
2. Ask for Letters of Recommendation Right Away
I would suggest asking for your letters of recommendation on your last week at the office. The longer you wait after you’re gone, the more your boss and other employees will forget the specifics of what you did at the office.
At my recent internship, I sent out an email on my last week saying a general thank you to the office and reminding them that it was my last week (often times offices are so busy, they won’t be keeping track of when you’re done). I also sent out a few personalized emails to specific individuals asking if they would be able to write me letters of recommendation. Be sure to include the objective of the letter and specific topics you’d like them to cover. Just think, they are helping you out, so make less work for them!
3. Stay Connected on Social Media and LinkedIn
With the convenience of social media, it is easier than ever to stay in touch with employers. I would suggest requesting the office on LinkedIn and following the company on social media. When appropriate, comment on specific events or accomplishments of people in the company or the company itself. That way you always stay in their minds!
4. Don’t Burn Any Bridges
This is a major one – do not burn any bridges. Speak truthfully about your internship in your review, but be respectful. The last thing you need is to have more barriers to cross as you’re entering the industry. You’d be surprised how small the world is and who knows who, so just be smart about how you talk about people in your future field.
5. If You Ever Return to The Area, Reach Out!
This is a little less conventional, but very effective. If you’re ever back in your host country or see that someone from the office is in your area, reach out on social media and offer to catch up for coffee or drinks.