Five ways to succeed as an intern

Paid or unpaid, navigating the role of intern for the first time can be a challenge for anyone. Internship experience is an important part of building your resume as a student. Here are some of our favorite tips for being successful in an internship role:

1. Dress Professionally. Be sure to dress appropriately and modestly at your internship. Be wary of cleavage and be sure your skirt is at least knee length. Your office is not the place to showcase your eccentric personal style. “Inappropriate dress will hurt your quest for professional respect,” said Lorra Brown (PR Daily). Take a look around you, get a feel for the office dress code, and look to model that.

2. Understand Your Manager’s Expectations. Your managers do not expect you to know how to do everything. They do, however, expect you to be able to follow directions. Bring paper and a pen to meetings so that you can write detailed notes when your manager is speaking. Don’t hesitate to ask questions; you want to leave the meeting with a clear understanding of how to complete any given task. Be sure to brainstorm ideas before reaching out to your supervisor so you come prepared and with a possible solution to the problem you are trying to address.

3. Learn to Take Criticism. At some point in your internship you will receive criticism. Your supervisors criticize your work for your benefit as well as the organizations. If you aren’t receiving any feedback, just ask; constructive criticism is key to improvement.

4. Act as an Employee. Although you are an intern, you should conduct yourself with the dignity and integrity of an employee. “Employers frequently criticize interns for lacking problem-solving abilities or their unwillingness to be proactive in generating ideas,” Lorra Brown (PR Daily)  Keep yourself busy even when you don’t have a project to work on, ask others if they need help, and bring creative ideas to meetings.

5. Be an Advocate for Your Goals. Be clear with your manager about your expectations for the internship. If you begin the internship with the intention of gaining a certain skill, or creating a particular portfolio piece, communicate that with your manager. If they don’t know what your expectations are, you may end up performing a greater number of mundane office tasks. Your goals are an important priority, however, you are in charge of achieving them!

Photo Credit: Bill Dimmick via Compfight cc

Post by Katie Keene, PRSSA member for the 2012-2013 school year. You can contact Katie through our blog editor: cgisler@uoregon.edu.

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