Internship Tips 101

Throughout my university career, I only had 1 internship as a co-op student. However, that 12 month internship turned into 3 years of work experience at the same company. I was the first co-op student in my department to become a part-time contractor when I had to go back to school. This meant that my department created a net new headcount for me, and then another department created another net new headcount for me a year later.

I am grateful for being so lucky. But, I also worked hard to put myself in the way of that luck!

Today, I’d like to share my learnings and experiences with all of the interns and co-op students who want to make the most out of their internship experiences.

1. Set goals and milestones from the beginning

This is really important for any internship because you are only there for a few months (or a year). Time is precious, so you should be making the most out of it.

At the beginning, take the time to set goals with your managers on what you should accomplish for the team by the end of your internship. You should also make it clear what you want to get out of the internship and align with your manager:

  • Is it practical work experience?
  • Is it to gain technical skills and exposure?
  • Is it to get a full-time job offer afterwards?

2. Know your stakeholders

As an intern, I made sure to meet with every person on my team as well as those who we worked closely with. I recommend asking the following questions:

  • What are the goals and objectives of your role on the team?
  • What are some of the challenges that you face?
  • What are your expectations of me as an intern?
  • How can I support you and the team and make your life easier?
  • What is your work style or preferences (method of communication, hands off/on, etc…)

3. Learn quickly

Chances are that you are new to the company and need to learn everything from the ground up. If you need to invest extra hours in the beginning, do it. Here’s a checklist:

  • Finish your onboarding videos ASAP so you can focus on the value-add stuff
  • Research the team and organization (review the internal sites and news)
  • Figure out what the internal processes are (review documentation and if there isn’t any, make it a goal to develop this documentation for the team)
  • Make a list of your questions and get them answered ASAP
  • Find an onboarding buddy to help you understand the organization

4. Show up

Make a good impression on your team members by being organized, punctual, and eager to learn. Be the person who is always on time for work and meetings. Be the person who answers emails or chats quickly. Be the person who eagerly puts up their hand for new projects and activities.

Do not sit idle if you don’t have any work to do (or if you’ve already completed everything). Be proactive and ask for more ways to get involved. If the work is too easy, don’t be afraid to ask for something more challenging to make sure that you’re also learning something useful on the job.

You can read more tips on showing up here.

5. Make yourself easy & enjoyable to manage

Although your manager and team members should hold your hand in the beginning, you should make it as easy as possible for them to onboard you to the team.

  • Check in proactively with your manager at least once a day to align on priorities
  • Send a weekly recap of what you’ve accomplished, tasks in progress, and questions/concerns

6. Ask for feedback

This is always so important, especially as you’re trying new things and learning the ropes.

At the beginning of your internship, ask for advice and expectations on what you should keep in mind about the team and company.

Towards the middle of your internship, get feedback on how you’ve been performing against expectations and if there are any areas that you can improve in. Make sure you take any constructive feedback with a growth mindset!

At the end of your internship, ask for a recommendation or endorsement (e.g. on LinkedIn) and if you could’ve done anything differently.

7. Meet new people outside of your team

Make the time to meet managers and employees outside of your team and learn from them. It is important to get different perspectives across the company and explore opportunities to take on stretch projects (just check in with your manager so that they are on board).

Sometimes, these conversations can lead to new opportunities throughout or after your internship. Make sure you leave a great first impression and follow up with them!

8. Say yes and try everything

As an intern, you are there to learn and support the team. Sometimes, the work may not be as exciting, but say yes and do it well regardless. If you find a process tedious, go and automate it so that you can spend your time working on more exciting things instead.

Even if you don’t know how to do something, say yes and learn how to do it! Your manager and team are there to coach you through challenging tasks, so make sure you leverage their knowledge and experiences.

9. Create a training guide for the next intern

As you head towards the finish line, take the initiative to document all of your learnings for your successor. This is a great way to “leave a legacy” behind if you’ve done a great job.

If documentation already exists, review it and update it based on any changes that took place throughout your internship. This will be really helpful for the team once you’re gone.

10. Find ways to go above and beyond

Your manager and team members are busy people and have many different priorities. This means that there is are a lot of opportunities for you to help them out with projects and tasks that might have slipped from their radar. Every one of these opportunities is a way for you to add value to the team.

  • Ask your manager if you can help plan your team socials and events
  • Ask your teammates if they have any presentations or documentation that you can help put together
  • Ask your external stakeholders if they have any feedback for your team and then put together some ideas and suggestions for your team to consider

Key Takeaways

  1. Set goals and milestones from the beginning
  2. Know your stakeholders
  3. Learn quickly
  4. Show up
  5. Make yourself easy and enjoyable to manage
  6. Ask for feedback
  7. Meet new people outside of your team
  8. Say yes and try everything
  9. Create a training guide for the next intern
  10. Find ways to go above and beyond

Feel free to check out other tips on my blog and I wish you all the best in your internship!