5 Ways to Maximize Your Summer Internship Experience

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Summer is around the corner, but the grind never stops. Many of you will be interning over the summer or are still in the process of securing an internship. Either way, there are proactive steps you can take to ensure that your summer experience is both meaningful and productive.     The Soll Center for Student Opportunity hosted a workshop led by Director of External Relations, Beth Milev ‘05, on How to Succeed this Summer, April 19. The event provided tips on proper workplace etiquette, effective networking practices, and imperative pre-arrival tasks. While some students have prior work experience, others who are interning for the first time do not. For those who desire some assistance or clarity, read on for tips on how to maximize your summer internship experience.  

Touch bases ahead of time

Although your internship has a designated start date, you should start preparing well in advance.

A few weeks before your internship, reach out to your boss through a brief email expressing your excitement for the upcoming experience. Make sure to reiterate how you will see him or her on your first day. According to Milev, this small gesture displays commitment and maturity.

Start thinking about your arrival time, wardrobe, and essential items to bring. If your boss wants you to arrive at 8:00 am, then leave early enough to give yourself plenty of time to travel. Arrive at least ten minutes before the required time. To make your first day run smoothly, scope out your job site and learn where everything is located beforehand. By doing this, you can avoid wasting time trying to find your destination. 

Be cognizant of dress code policies. While some firms are more informal, other firms require their employees to dress in business-formal attire. Know the policy enforced at your company and uphold those standards unless told otherwise by your boss.  

Understand the culture

Each company is different. Therefore, despite similarities in job descriptions, each internship experience is different. On the job, you will be exposed to a completely new environment, one that is very different from the one at CMC or even an on-campus job. Everything will feel less familiar. Therefore, you must quickly adapt to the change in pace, daily tasks, and lifestyle by absorbing as much information about the workplace culture as you can.

Some factors to consider are your decision making, personal tasks, and social choices.

When trying to decide if something is acceptable, always err on the side of caution and ask your boss. Assuming the rules will get you in trouble. Additionally, punctuality matters all summer long, so do not be late. However, if you are running late, it is best to inform your boss.

For personal tasks, you must find the line between what is acceptable and what is not. While many companies won’t enforce a policy against you using your phone, refrain from constantly checking social media or sending personal emails. This reduces your productivity and reflects poorly on you as an employee.

Finally, the social choices are about how you conduct yourself outside of the workplace. Companies will occasionally have off-site lunches for their workers, which raise issues when deciding who will cover the cost. In this situation, always be prepared to pay for your own meal. If your boss offers to pay for you, simply acknowledge that you are prepared to pay. If he or she insists, then there is nothing wrong with letting your boss pay for your meal. Although it is acceptable to not attend every single social event hosted by your company, you should make an effort to participate as frequently as possible. These events are excellent opportunities to learn more about your coworkers and network with them in a more intimate setting.

Get to know your boss

Just like every company is different, so is every boss’ management style. Maybe they prefer to meet infrequently; maybe they expect daily or weekly updates; maybe they want to connect with you on a personal level. Learning your boss' work style will help you know exactly what to expect and significantly improve your experience.

Getting to know your boss is also beneficial because it improves communication between the two of you, especially when you are given constructive feedback. We are all human; therefore, we all make mistakes. If your boss gives you negative feedback, take it as an opportunity to learn from your mistakes, acknowledge that you made them, and graciously move forward. Never make excuses. This taints your image as an employee because it shows that you are incapable of owning up to your mistakes. And frankly, no one has time to consider why you made a mistake.

Roll up your sleeves

When your internship finally starts and you report for your first day of work, you can feel intimidated, especially if you have never worked in a similar environment. Learning everyone’s name, remembering the information from your training session, and identifying the culture is a lot to tackle during the first days on the job. If you are ever lost, don’t hesitate to ask questions—just not too many. Your boss will appreciate you paying close attention.

While completing tasks, you should always proofread and review your work in order to reduce the chances for mistakes. If your boss assigns you low-level work, don’t assume that this is him or her undermining your ability. He or she is testing your proficiency at low-level tasks before increasing your responsibility. You must excel at the easier work before receiving more demanding assignments.

Have Fun

It’s summer! If you decided not to work, still carve out time to invest in yourself and your development. Practice self-care. Read a book. Take an interesting class. Travel the world. Do something that expands your knowledge. Most importantly, have fun doing it!  

This is the time for us to explore our passions, experiment with new job roles, and achieve new heights in our professional development. The task ahead is both exciting and daunting. According to Milev, “work is not always fun; they pay you for a reason. My advice to you is to think about the skills you are learning at your internship and how you can apply them to your future career.” I happily concur.

A big thanks to Beth Milev for conducting a fun and informative workshop on how to maximize your summer internship experience.