5 Tips for Making the Most of Your Summer Internship

Congratulations! You made it through the application and interview processes and you landed an awesome internship! But, your work has just begun. How can you be sure you’re making the most of this opportunity? Here are five tips to get you started.

1. Speak up. Don’t be shy! It can be intimidating as an intern, but it’s important to speak your mind and contribute ideas to your team. Have ideas for a marketing plan or a business development pitch? Great! Make sure your team hears them. You were chosen for your internship because you were a strong applicant; your company values your skills and experience. If they didn’t, you wouldn’t have landed your internship. It’s time to show what you know!

2. Ask questions. No one at your company, no matter how long they’ve worked there or how senior they are, has all the answers to everything. Everyone asks questions at some point and needs help—that’s just part of life in the working world. Don’t assume that you’ll look stupid if you ask a question. In fact, your team will likely thank you for it. They’ll appreciate the thought you’ve put into solving a problem and the self-awareness you possess to know when you need additional support or clarification. At the end of the day, it’s better to ask a question than to continue with a task you’re unsure about.

Matt Cortland, Sage Corps City Manager in Dublin and Founder of the Magical Pub & Inn suggests that interns ask their immediate supervisors very direct questions for support on tough assignments. He suggests, “You can always say, ‘Ok, so how would you approach this task/problem?’ This will almost always elicit a thoughtful response that lends the benefit of experience and gives you insight into how you should begin to work toward a solution."

3. Connect with people. It’s important to understand that your company isn’t just a brand offering a product or service. Remember that it’s also a group of people that thrives on interpersonal relationships and connections. So, get to know your team members. Make new friends in the lunchroom. Set up coffee chats with executives and other employees you may not come into contact with on a daily basis. This will help you gain insight into your company’s culture and workflow, making you better at your job. But, more importantly, if you do this, you’ll build a network of experienced professionals who may one day have a huge impact on your career. Never underestimate the power of a strong professional network!

When asked about advice he would give summer interns, Sebastian Cadenas, CEO of Increase, an Argentina-based tech startup, replied, “My little piece of advice for interns is to always give their very best to what they do and to remember the importance of deeply connecting with people.”

4. Take notes. If you aren’t already, start carrying a notebook with you at work. And don’t just carry it, use it! Yes, carrying around a notebook will help you look proactive and organized—which is always a plus. But, it’s really important and useful to keep detailed notes about meetings and projects. Cortland says, "Have a notebook and pen with you all the time and take notes in meetings. It will make you more successful and help you recall specific details that are needed later."

Chances are, if you hear something that you think you should remember, you’re probably right. There will be a lot of important details to remember throughout your internship, and to ensure that you don’t forget any of them, put pen to paper.

Also, consider writing (or at least typing) a daily to-do list so none of your assignments fall through the cracks.

5. Be humble. Last, but certainly not least, this will help you become a successful member of any team. Personality matters. No one wants to work with an arrogant Scrooge. So, say thank you. A lot. When someone offers you a compliment, be gracious. When someone offers you constructive criticism, be gracious then, too. Don’t just ignore whatever criticism or feedback you may receive; these insights are valuable and often hold some degree of truth. Remember that while you do bring a lot to your company, you also have a lot of learning to do.

Your summer internship is an opportunity for you to break out of your comfort zone and learn from people who are different than you. Yes, sometimes it may be stressful (as with any job). But, you’ll also have the opportunity to teach those around you about your ideas and experience. Good luck, have fun, and work hard!

And who knows, maybe one day you’ll have the opportunity to pass on your internship wisdom to an intern at your future startup