If you’re planning on landing a full-time job when you graduate from college, having an internship on your resume is a big plus. The current job market is very competitive and full of qualified candidates. When employers are choosing between two candidates with similar skills and backgrounds, the one who’s had an internship will stand out above the other.
Internships give students invaluable real-life experience inside an industry or career that they’re interested in pursuing, but there’s a big difference between being an intern and being a great intern. Depending on how hard you work and how much you manage to prove yourself during your internship, you could end up finding a permanent home.
Here are some tips to help you stand out:
Take Your Internship Seriously
Always treat an internship like it’s a full-time job and like you’re already a company employee. How would you act if this were your real job? Thinking in this kind of mindset will give others the impression that you are professional and ready to work. Being on time and prepared each day may seem obvious, but company managers and other employees will definitely take notice.
This also means dressing for the job and using your time wisely. Find out what your company’s dress code is and follow it. If you have to ask yourself whether or not an outfit is appropriate for work, it’s probably not. As far as time management goes, make sure you always meet deadlines and avoid –gasp– checking your phone until lunch. It seems like all of us are glued to our phones these days, but If your head is constantly down looking at your phone, people are going to assume you’re texting or on social media. This goes for meetings, too – unless it’s absolutely necessary to have your phone out, keep it in your purse or your pocket.
“The real test is making sure the intern can use good judgment to establish trust with their manager, can produce quality and timely work, and has the aptitude and attitude for a next-level task or assignment when it presents itself,” Elaine Hannah, HR Business Partner at PrimeLending, informs.
Companies look for employees who get along well with people. It’s good to be focused at work, but try not to take yourself too seriously, and don’t forget to have a sense of humor sometimes. If you make an effort to get along well with other employees, they’re more likely to see you as part of their team. Make the most of interacting with fellow interns, department coworkers and company leaders.
“Being someone that people want to talk to and be around is huge,” says former PrimeLending intern Dalton Quick. “After all, they’re not going to ask you to come and work for them permanently if they can’t stand to be around you for a few months during your internship.”
Go the Extra Mile
Being a good intern is about much more than just showing up each day. No matter what company you’re interning with, there’s always some kind of work to be done. Aim to be the intern who takes initiative and goes above and beyond what’s required to get things done. Rather than sitting around and waiting to be assigned work every day, choose to be proactive. When you finish an assignment, ask what else you can help with. If you have an idea that you think could benefit the company, speak up, whether it’s in a meeting or you’re talking to a manager one-on-one. Even if your idea doesn’t pan out, you’ll at least be remembered for having the ambition to try something new.
“You want the people in the office to appreciate what you’re doing for them and you want to look back and feel like you’ve made somewhat of a difference (even if it’s just a small one),” says Quick. “For me, personally, I also wanted to build on my portfolio, so taking the initiative to work hard and really get engrossed in every project afforded to me was essential.”
Be Humble and Ask For Feedback
Like it or not, there’s a stereotype out there that millennials are entitled, don’t work hard and don’t take criticism well. Set out to defy that stereotype. Don’t be the person who is always late coming back from lunch, for example, and make sure you ask your manager at your internship for feedback. Constructive criticism is important. How are you supposed to improve if you don’t ask what it is that you should be working on?
“I always value openness and a willingness to take on a challenge,” Kelly Gill, Vice President, Regional Marketing at PrimeLending, suggests. “The best interns I’ve worked with ask for feedback and put the lessons learned into action immediately.”
On that note, you’re going to make some mistakes while you’re an intern. No one is expecting you to be perfect, but how you handle your mistakes says a lot to the company you’re interning with. When you make an error, hold yourself accountable — accept responsibility, learn from it and move on. Blaming anyone else will make it look like you’re embarrassed and not a team player.
Every summer, PrimeLending offers internships in a variety of departments. If you or someone you know would like more information, visit the PrimeLending career page.