10 ways to act like a dream intern

Jessica Levco

When you’re in college, nobody tells you how to be an intern.

 That’s too bad.

 Because once you land your internship, your employer wants you to act like one.

 Recently, the career development representative at Indiana University (Go Hoosiers!) invited me and a bunch of A-list Chicago journalists who’ve made it to their tops of their careers in newspapers, magazines, and PR for dinner to pick our brains about how we could help turn J-school students into dream interns.

 Here’s what we came up with:

  1. Work later than everyone else. One woman said she turned her internship into a job because she would stick around until 7 p.m., willing to help anyone do anything—even if it was something as simple as mailing a package.
  2. Ditch the millennial crowd. It’s great if there are young people at your office, but don’t be an ageist. And let’s face it: Those older, mid-level managers are the ones that are going to hire you, anyway.
  3. Pick out an office role model. If you’re unsure of how to “act” at your first job, follow this person’s lede (pardon the pun).
  4. Invite someone out for coffee. Take the initiative to learn as much as you can about the company you’re working for.
  5. Learn new skills in social media. Whether you’re tweeting or adding people to your Google+ Circles, you need to be willing to adapt to change.
  6. Keep up with your selected industry. For budding journalists, one woman at dinner quipped: “They should know Romensko.”
  7. Don’t just be an intern. Be the intern. Especially if your office has a lot of interns, don’t get lumped into one category. Get noticed.
  8. Wear appropriate clothes. You’d be surprised by how many people ignore this clichéd advice. Don’t dress like you’re boozin’ it up with friends on a Saturday night. Class it up.
  9. Interact. Don’t isolate yourself by sitting in your cube all day, listening to Arcade Fire on your iTunes. It’s OK to chit-chat with co-workers who sit next to you.
  10. Say goodbye. Don’t watch the clock and bolt out the door at 5 p.m. Stop by your supervisor’s desk and say, “Hey, is there anything else you need from me today?”

Do you have any tips you’d like to share from your internship experience?

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One thought on “10 ways to act like a dream intern

  1. I’m currently working as an intern for a nonprofit – Volunteers in Service to the Elderly (VISTE). Their mission is to enable the frail elderly to remain safely and independently in their own homes. My supervisor suggested a volunteer project and planned it with my sorority sisters, and the project went really well. Everyone was impressed that I took the initiative to plan a project. Advice: Take the initiative! Volunteer to do work after hours.

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