Do your research
This is an important first step when trying to obtain any internship. You want to know what the organization’s mission is going into your interview as well as your first day. Find out what that organization does to uphold their mission. This is important prior to your interview so you know if this organization is a good fit for you. It will help during your internship so you know what the organization is working towards and understand why they do what they do. If you can, do some research on the people that work there. You will feel like you better know the people when you finally get a chance to put a name with a face. Do research about the location of the internship, especially if you will have to relocate for the duration of the internship. This will help you plan where to live, where to shop, where your internship site is, and how you are going to get around. You can never be too prepared.
Dress to impress
What is the dress code for your internship? When you are asking your questions during an interview, it is okay to ask about the dress code. If your company or organization has social media, you may be able to find pictures of employees to get a better idea of what they wear on a day to day basis. Think about what your internship job description is. Whatever your dress code is – business, business casual, casual – always follow the dress code, but remember, it is better to be overdressed than under dressed.
If the dress code is business casual ask your supervisor which way they lean more. For example, my internship required business casual. We could wear pants, including jeans, and a nice top. However, I tried to avoid jeans as much as possible. I had a teacher in high school that once told us she never wore sweatpants or leggings to the places where she could run into people that could write her letters of recommendations. I followed that all through college. When it came time for my internship, I upped that rule for myself and included jeans. In the winter months, I wore jeans more often but I ALWAYS made sure that I knew I wouldn’t have to be going to the hill or meeting anyone important.
Participate when and where you can
You are there to learn, and what better way to learn than to jump in feet first and participate when and where you can. Is there a meeting or conference call happening? Ask if you can sit in on it. Is there an important event happening such as a hearing at the House or Senate? Ask if you can attend. Is there a project that your supervisor or other employees need help with? Ask how you can help. Is there an errand that needs to be ran? Ask if you can run the errand or if you can join them. If your supervisor or another employee asks you to complete a task, say yes! This will help your supervisor to see that you are a team player and willing to help out when needed.
This may be the most important way that you can make the most of your internship. During the weeks or months of your internship you will gain a lot of knowledge about things you may not otherwise know. A lot of information will be thrown at you. It may seem like there isn’t anything else you can learn. Believe me when I say there is ALWAYS something you can learn about. The times that I learned the most was when I was sitting individually with a team member in the office I was interning at and asking direct questions and engaging in a conversation. At first it felt as if I was intruding and interrupting their work, but I soon realized they were more than happy to sit and discuss about whatever project they were working on or answer any questions I may have. These were some of my favorite moments during my internship.
You will quickly learn the little ways the employees communicate. If someone had an important phone call or was working on a task in which they could not be interrupted, they would send out an email, tell us face-to-face, or simply shut their door. If you aren’t having conversations and asking questions, then you will miss the chance to learn more about what a person does to aid the company or organization in their mission as well as the chance to build connections.
Document your experience
You will see a lot. You will hear a lot. You will meet a lot of new people.You will go new places and try new food. You will want to reminisce on your time during your internship when you leave and go back home. Document your experience. Take pictures, write in a journal, post on social media, start a blog – however you want to document, do that. Your internship will hopefully change you. You may have to move somewhere new – a new city, state, or country. You will be put into situations you have never had to face. You will meet important people such as the CEO of the company you are interning for or congressmen/women. You will meet meet strangers on the street, in your internship, in your building, at events. You will be present for important moments, for moments of laughter and team building, for stressful moments. You will see new things and go new places. You will want to remember.
If you’re preparing for an internship, I hope these tips help. Best of luck!