5 Tips to Make the Most of Your Internship This Summer

It’s summertime and all around the country, college students are starting internships trying to figure out more about what they want from their future careers. As I entered my first internship last summer as a rising junior, I had a lot of questions and worries. Now that I’m a returning intern, I realized exactly how much of the stress from last summer was just from not knowing what to expect. If you’re interning somewhere for the first time or interning somewhere new, these tips might help you know what to expect going in.


1. You have this position for a reason.

One of my biggest struggles in my first internship was some very real concern about whether I would be up to the tasks I was assigned. As a computer science student right out of my sophomore year, I hadn’t taken classes that most of my co-interns had. Looking back, I certainly struggled at times and in those struggles, I got really good at figuring out what I could work out myself and what I needed to ask about. But I also had the tools that I needed to help overcome some struggles too! However, there's a likely chance that you won’t have previous experience with whatever you work on, but if you got the job offer, that means that whoever hired you felt like you would be up to it. Remember, you were chosen for a reason, so you can definitely do it.


2. No one is expecting perfection; they are expecting effort.

Your full-time coworkers remember what it was like to start at a new place as an intern or recent college graduate, and in my experience, most people are happy to help you out. They know that the workplace can be intimidating on someone’s first go. Also, as a college intern, your coworkers and supervisors know you may not be experienced with whatever you specifically get assigned to work on. That’s the point of your internship: to get experience applying the theories and concepts you’re learning in school. However, your efforts to be self-sufficient and motivated will be one of the most important factors in your success during your internship. Yes, ask questions, but maybe don’t ask your supervisor until you Googled, looked at internal references, and asked another coworker. Any further effort will be appreciated; if you have a new idea for applying something, or see something that could be helpful, bring it up! It may not get picked up but that thought and initiative have a big impact.  


3. Have goals for your internship.

Remember that your internship is just as much for your benefit as whatever work you contribute to your company or organization. If you want to make the most of your time, you should know what you want to find out. Maybe that means you want to find out what roles are good applications of your degree, or what kinds of projects that company works on. Before you start, or a few weeks into your stay, consider what you would like to leave having accomplished, and feel free to ask the people around you for suggestions or advice.


4. Diversify your experience.

            One of the best reasons to do an internship is to get to see how people in your field of study work and what they work on. As an intern, you’ll probably have a specific project and team to work with. You should definitely focus on that, but take advantage of everything else that is going on around you. If there is a side project that interests you outside of your assigned work, volunteer to work on it, or sit in on meetings about it. Talk to people with different roles; ask them what they do, what they like about it, and how they ended up there. You’re at your internship to work, but part of the things you want to learn about are the other options and possibilities that are open to you.


5.  Network with the people around you.

 This last tip fits with the one before it, but the people you work with at your internship are one of the best resources available to you. They have experience and advice that can be very relevant to your interests and your career. Ideally, you would want to return to your internship company full time eventually, but even if that isn’t the case for you, your coworkers are valuable contacts and mentors. Don’t be afraid to ask people if they have time to talk to you at some point; most of them were in your shoes at some point and have valuable things to say. Personal connections are one of the best ways for you to create an impact; you should give people something to remember.