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A Collegiette’s™ Guide to Being a Superstar Intern

I remember the first day of my first major New York City internship. I woke up about three hours before I had to be there for the big day. My outfit had been planned out weeks in advance. I wore a dress I bought with my mom on a shopping trip for the sole purpose of buying something to wear on my first day.

I landed an internship at a celebrity news and gossip website that is run by a woman who has been editor of more magazine titles than exist today. I wasn’t only nervous about working with powerful and highly influential people in the media industry; I was also nervous about my competition. In college, I served as an editor/reporter at the university’s independent newspapers and writer for various websites. I knew I was qualified for this internship. But who else was just as qualified as I was? About 12 girls who had the same experience (or more) as I did and had the same goals in mind: to make a lasting impression on this publication’s staff, to network in the industry, and to land a job after graduation. That, after all, is the purpose of internships, or so what we’ve been told, right?

That first day I arrived, I had no idea what to expect. As the editor-in-chief walked in the office with commotion surrounding her, she asked right away if an intern could assist her at an event. I had just walked in and barely made it through proper introductions with the staff — and paused to see if any of the other interns were going to volunteer — before my hand shot up in the air, and I anxiously said, “I will.” My intern supervisor helped me gather what I needed to bring, a video camera and digital camera, and told me not to let her resume make me nervous. The magazine’s editor-in-chief was just a normal person like the both of us, my supervisor assured me, and I was lucky to have volunteered to go to this event with her. 

One year later, and I’m currently employed at that same publication. I graduated college about a month ago and moved to NYC to start my first real job one week later. I’m not here to toot my own horn, though, but rather to help you, interning collegiettes™, garner the same success I did. There were days when other interns did better than I did. And days when I thought some of the other girls were more qualified and even more intelligent than I was.  But they didn’t get the job after the graduation. With my own advice, advice from collegiettes™ around the country, and the words from our very own career expert, here’s how you can stand out in your internship when the competition is cutthroat.
Advice From A Professional

What are your dream employers looking for so you can wear the title of superstar intern? Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager, founder and president of Come Recommended and author of Lies, Damned Lies & Internships: The Truth About Getting from Classroom to Cubicle. She says she’s hired “several” interns. “It’s all about not only doing the tasks you’re assigned, but also going above and beyond,” she says.

“It’s important to approach the internship with a positive attitude. You’ll also want to show that you’re valuable, yes, even as an intern, to the organization by completing projects on time to your best potential,” Huhman says. “Just because you’re not an employee yet doesn’t mean you shouldn’t act as if you are one. Volunteering for additional projects and displaying great communication and critical thinking skills can also help you stand out during an internship.”
Acting as if you’ve already snagged the job is a good mindset to have when rising above the competition at an internship, which means never doing the following, according to Huhman, during your internship term:

  • Don’t come in late or leave early.
  • Don’t dress inappropriately for the office.
  • Avoid unprofessional behavior, such as texting on the job or using Facebook during work hours.

“In order to be considered for a future opening at the company, you need to present your best, most professional self throughout the entire internship and strive to make yourself an indispensable part of the company,”
Huhman says. In other words, don’t be more lenient because you’re an intern — that definitely won’t help you in the long run.
During down time, ask for more work
There will be moments when you have nothing to do. Instead of texting your best friend or browsing Facebook, ask someone in the office if they have something for you to do. The staff is very busy and sometimes might not even have time to ask you to do a task. It definitely pays off to be proactive and simply just ask.

“My trick through my three internships has consistently been to ask for more work. Although it’s tempting to slack off on Facebook or Gchat while you have downtime, constantly searching out more work and asking your managers for more tasks shows that you are dedicated, willing to work hard for the company and a definite go-getter,”
says Rachel Kossman, a graduate of Northeastern University.
“I did three co-ops through Northeastern University in Boston, and my assertiveness and drive at my second co-op with Tech Target ended up landing me a full time job here now that I’ve graduated. My team remembered that I was a hard worker, and they were happy to hire me on once I finished at Northeastern,” Rachel says.

Don’t be scared to add your own flair
As an intern you will be asked to do a variety of tasks each day. Yes, your internship leaders will expect them to be completed a certain way, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use your own brain and make a positive contribution to whatever you are doing. Many times as an intern I would sit in on pitch meetings and take notes as the reporters suggested story ideas for the day. Interns were encouraged to pitch, but rarely did. I pitched several stories as much as possible. Sometimes, the staff didn’t like my ideas and they would tell me. I felt a little like a failure, but they always appreciated that I chimed in on the discussion and gave my own input. I wouldn’t just sit there and take notes like a robot.
“Really step up and take your responsibilities to the next level. Also add your own flair to the project. Do whatever it takes to stand out, but at the same time be sure to be a great team player,” says Erica Avesian from the University of Michigan who has interned at StyleLine magazine, College Lifestyles, and Lovelyish.
Do the grunt work—without complaining

There should never be a task a staff member asks you to do that would result in an eye roll. There are the occasional coffee runs and cleaning the office kitchen assignments, but those are the tasks workers don’t have time to do. It’s the interns who take on those tasks with a smile and a positive attitude who always stand out. Trust me, they definitely take note of the grunt work you do, and they definitely appreciate it.
“I’ve found that sometimes you have to do the grunt work first. Fact-checking, answering phones and making calls are all a part of an internship at one point or another. If you don’t complain about this seemingly boring work and complete it quickly and efficiently, your boss will appreciate your work and hopefully give you more interesting tasks,” says Rachel Dozier from James Madison University, who interned at Retail Jewelerlast summer, a trade publication in London, England.

Write a thank you note
I’ve never left an internship without a hand-written thank you note. It might sound old school, but they truly do go a long way. The staff really does appreciate it and will have something hanging around their desk to remind them of you and your hard work.

“Writing thank you notes after my internship really helped me stand out. None of the other interns did, and I included something that had happened between me, and every person in the office so that they felt like they had helped me in some way. They helped me get the internship this summer,” says Krista Evans, a former Her Campus Simmons campus correspondent.

There will be days when you’ll feel burnt out and like you want to leave early or come in a few minutes late. Treat every day like it’s your first day, be positive, work hard, be personable and don’t let anyone else make you feel like you’re not just as qualified as the intern next to you. With these ingredients to success you will stand out in your internship in no time — good luck!

Krista Evans, former Her Campus Simmons Campus Correspondent
Rachel Dozier, Her Campus Contributing writer
Erica Avesian, Her Campus contributing writer
Rachel Kossman, Her Campus Contributing Writer
Heather R. Huhman, career expert, hiring manager, founder and president of Come Recommended and author of Lies, Damned Lies & Internships: The Truth About Getting from Classroom to Cubicle

Nicole is a senior at the University of Iowa majoring in journalism and Spanish. A native of the Chicago suburbs, she is an editor for the metro section at the Daily Iowan and writes Monday night recaps of her favorite TV show (and guilty pleasure) 'Gossip Girl' on Hollywoodlife.com. She spent this last summer in New York City interning at Hollywoodlife.com and a New York-based lifestyle and travel magazine, the Resident. She's exclusively interviewed several celebrities such as Bethenny Frankel, Margaret Cho, Joel Madden & Cheryl Burke. After graduation Nicole plans on returning to NYC and pursuing her career in journalism. In her free time she enjoys doing yoga, reading, and spending time with family and friends. 
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