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You landed the internship, you're getting settled in your work space, and you've been handed your first assignment. What you do next can help lead you to not only a great internship, but also important professional relationships for years to come. While better managers will be more direct about defining success, those who are new to managing interns may not be as clear. Here’s what you can do to wow them, regardless of how much initial feedback they provide.
In a busy office, you may only have one chance to touch base with a supervisor or colleagues, often at the start of the day. After that, meetings, unexpected deadlines and other events may make it seem like everyone has forgotten about you, but that’s not true at all. In most cases they will expect that you are on schedule with any tasks unless you say otherwise. Speak up the minute you run into a roadblock or suspect that you need longer than the agreed upon deadline. A good rule of thumb is to touch base around lunch and then around 3 p.m. to provide updates as to the expected time you can deliver the project you’re working on. Often your supervisor will need the work you’ve done before they can deliver reports or other updates to clients or upper managers.
If you’ve finished your work early and have nothing to do but check Instagram and Snapchat, don’t expect anyone to notice. That’s a good thing if you want to coast until the last day, but not the best approach if you are looking to turn the internship into a full-time job or line up professional referrals. Let your supervisor or team know that you have extra time to work on projects or help others who may be struggling. You’ll help the team out and gain respect because you’ll stand out as someone who is really invested in the position and ultimately cares about good work.
Pay attention to detail
While managers understand that this is likely your first professional experience and don’t expect perfect work, be mindful about basic details, typos, or other easy-to-control errors. “Attention to detail is an impressive and desired quality that employers like to see," notes Sharise Kent, author of the Internship Manual. "It can also get to be annoying for your manager if they need to go back and correct your mistakes. Be fast but be careful.”
Treat it like a professional job
Internships "...may be the start of a long-standing career in the industry," Ryan Kahn — a career coach, and author of "Hired! The Guide for the Recent Grad"— said in an interview with Business Insider. He urges interns to use their position to start developing an impressive professional portfolio and network. In addition, it’s important to hone in on other aspects of professional life, including showing up on time, using work-appropriate language in emails, and dressing in a way that is normal for your specific industry and office.
Kristin Amico is a career and business writer who spent more than a decade managing creative teams at digital agencies. She has written for The Muse, The Independent and USA Today.
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