So you've landed yourself an internship? Well first of all, congratulations are in order. You’ve outperformed a whole bunch of your peers so if you're feeling rather smug... feel free.
On the one hand, you might be lamenting the fact that you’ve disembowelled your precious summer time. On the other, you’re ready to soothe your overdraft and grab as much information as possible from the opportunity that you and only you have created for yourself.
It can be quite daunting, going into a real business with REAL expectations. Sleeping in until 11am before telling your superior you will try and make it in for the afternoon meeting won’t quite cut it. I mean you could try but that’s a sure fire way to secure your next role as a road sweeper’s apprentice so I wouldn’t advise it.
You’re probably packed to the brim with questions right now and possibly panicking about what to expect. “Just be yourself” is such a useless cliché. Don’t try to envelop a totally false personality but be aware of how you carry yourself in this new professional environment. Have a peek at some of the pitfalls you should avoid during your internship below.
Don't be Late
I mentioned this earlier but it’s probably the most obvious one. DON’T BE LATE. You might think that having a 10am alarm makes you a hyper motivated student but in a corporate environment, punctuality is not rewarded, it’s expected. As one of the great philosophers, Terry Crews, once said in an episode of Everybody Hates Chris, “there’s no such thing as early: you’re either on time or you’re late”.
Put your phone away (ffs)
Put your god damn phone away. Although technology has developed a symbiotic relationship with our everyday lives, during office hours make sure your device is not on show. The older, more technophobic generation stereotype millennials as being phone addicted technology junkies. Alright they may have a point… but don’t prove that point for them.
Be eager (but not like...too eager)
Make it clear that you’re eager to learn. I don’t care how much you’ve studied the industry, how much you’ve researched the company or its processes, you are NOT Rain Man. In the grand scheme of things, you know very little and an arrogant attitude is not going to go down well. Be attentive, take opinions on board and offer some well thought out ideas when possible.
Always look busy
It doesn’t matter if you have a jam packed day full of complex tasks or you’ve been told to make the tea and send a bunch of emails. Whatever you’re doing, make sure you look committed at all times. There’s nothing worse for a firm than a lazy student intern who isn’t prepared to exchange a life of microwave meals for professional development. (Even if you’re not prepared to make this change just yet, act as if you do- fake it ‘till you make it and all that). If you’re genuinely bored and can’t find anything constructive to do, volunteer yourself for a project or ask your line manager if you can do any admin work to lighten his/her work load. Hide that laziness!
Play your position
As an intern you are at the bottom of the food chain in the office so do not assume anything. If a few staff members you've spoken to dress more casually than the rest and commonly swear during conversations, this doesn’t mean the next day you come in wearing a Superdry hoodie talking about “I swear if TFL delay one more f**king train I’m suing the bastards”. Remember that you are not a settled employee, your aim is to leave a positive squeaky clean image of yourself by the time they are considering who’s right for the grad scheme.
DO NOT forget to document your internship.
Interns can get so lost in the experience and adrenalin of a demanding internship that come the end of the contract, they’ve forgotten exactly what it is they have learned. It’s the equivalent of bragging in an interview about getting a 2.1 but with no memory of any modules you studied. Bring a note pad and jot down what tasks you’ve completed and what concepts you’ve been introduced to at the end of each week. At the end of your placement, your CV will be ripe for updating so forgetting even a couple of important industry relevant tasks may cost you an interview post-graduation.
The most important thing to remember is that nobody is expecting you to be a master of the industry. If you’ve been lucky enough to nab yourself an internship, remember that you’ve been chosen because of your potential, not your exquisite genius… well not yet anyway.
If you can be attentive, ask questions and refrain from lazy behaviour you are one step closer to that well paid graduate role. By getting the internship in the first place, you’re already in pole position so take a deep breath, relax and open that inquisitive mind.