Tips for Success

The Washington Post published an article with advice for summer interns this summer. Read it here. As I read it, I realized they left out a few tips. So here are some things I’ve learned from my past and current internships.

  1. Take Lunch: In the fast paced world of Washington, DC many people in offices don’t take lunch. They might run out to the Corner Bakery to grab a sandwich they eat at their desk while continuing to work.  I’ve done the “eat at my desk so I look more productive” intern dance and I’m here to tell you it’s not that great. First of all, when you don’t take lunch you don’t get a needed break. The days when I escape the office and spend 30 minutes in the park enjoying sunshine and a magazine, I am far more productive when I return! So do your best to take a break – even if its only 30 minutes. 
  2. Make friends with your coworkers: It may sound obvious, but if you want to have a good internship experience, make friends with the people you work with – and the people you just work nearby, whether or not you actually do any work with them. They can give you great advice (since they have a full-time job), help you out later on with a good reference, and just make coming to your internship every day much better!
  3. Do all tasks to the best of your ability: Last week, I had to manually enter 150 donation entries into our new online database. I tried to find a faster way, but ultimately I just had to suck it up and do it by hand. As an intern, you should do your absolute best on every task – whether its rote task or something very menial. Only by showing that you can handle small tasks will you ever be trusted with bigger and better things. You might be surprised with what you learn, too. I really improved my understanding of the online software.
  4. Speak your mind: If after a few weeks your supervisor asks you how things are going – tell them honestly. Be professional and don’t complain, but if you were told you’d get to work on a different project or something, now is the time to mention it. If you don’t advocate for yourself, no one else ever will either.
  5. Leave on a good note: Many interns have a great experience, but they fail to take advantage of their contacts. During your last week of your internship ask your supervisor or other co-workers to review your resume and maybe a sample cover letter. As people in your field, they will offer valuable advice to you. Ask your supervisor to help you write your resume section about your internship – they may know industry jargon or how to best present the experience. And finally, make sure to ask your supervisor if you can use him/her for a strong reference in the future and be sure to get a card, if you don’t already have one.