Working as an intern at Articulate Marketing has given me a good few lessons on how to be an awesome intern and how to make the most out of your internship. Atypically for an internship, I work remotely – so no coffee making! – but the same lessons still apply.
1. Do it for the right reasons.
It seems appealing to jump into any internship at the moment just to boost your CV, but if you have no real interest in the position it’ll waste both your time and your employer’s. You want to get the job you really want, right? Do some research into what internships are out there – try your university’s careers service or websites like Milkround and Instant Impact – and apply to those that you’re actually interested in. You’ll enjoy the experience and get much more out of it.
2. Arrive on time.
Basic but bears repeating – arrive on time and in a fit state to work. This isn’t overly difficult for me; working remotely means my commute is from the bed to the desk. It does, however, mean that ‘my train was delayed’ doesn’t fly when I’ve just slept in. Which hasn’t happened. Yet.
3. Be presentable.
Not one that immediately applies to me but I still get dressed in something I’d want to be seen in – pyjamas aren't great for productivity. Know your office’s dress code and stick to it. You might not be meeting clients but it makes a good impression. Just be glad that you're not this hapless chap.
4. Work hard.
You may be on minimum wage or, more often than not, earning nothing but this doesn't mean you shouldn’t work. You’re there to learn, network and, hopefully, add value to the business. I’m lucky that my internship at Articulate has given me the chance to get my teeth into some real client work and a couple of projects I can call my own. Even if you are just asked to make coffee, however, use it as an opportunity to hone your coffee making skills, or make it horribly the first time so you're never asked again.
5. Know your worth.
Saying that, careful that you’re not exploited. Companies shouldn’t be making you do the work and hours of a normal employee but paying you nothing because you're an ‘intern’. Intern Aware has a handy little briefing on the law regarding the national minimum wage and the common tricks used by employers to get around it.
6. Use your initiative.
Don’t always wait to be told to do something. If you finish your task, ask around for something else to do or do some industry-related research. Try reviewing and proposing improvements for the company’s processes. This might be suggesting a better way to use an existing piece of software or maybe recommending a new computer program.
7. Be curious.
Ask about the background of your assignment or about previous work done for that client. If you ask intelligent questions about the business in a friendly way you’ll get much more out of your internship and make a better impression on the people there. Just make sure it isn’t a torrent of inane questions that could easily be found elsewhere.
8. Speak up.
If you’re having a problem with something, ask someone for help. It can feel like you’re asking a stupid question and getting in the way of real work but no one expects you to be an expert from the start. Everyone had to start from the bottom at some time so don't feel embarrassed. This is especially true if your internship involves working remotely. You can’t just spontaneously chat to a colleague or have a coffee break with them so it’s important to stay in contact and ask questions if you need clarification.
See also: get the job you want
Related service: Company culture