6 Ways to Have a Successful Internship in College

By Emma Martin, Student at Ithaca College

Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I will probably be going to see the new Vince Vaugh/Owen Wilson film "The Internship." This interest is not solely based on my eternal love of "Wedding Crashers" or the movie's solid marketing efforts … it's because I am the intern.

A college student, not an adult, but I've seen it all. I see the reality in the existence of adult internships as applicants have become older and older in past years. And honestly, an internship is the FASTEST way to learn. I love my school and greatly appreciate my program, which I think greatly prepared me … for my internships.

I have never learned quicker than I did while interning. I was literally thrown into the chapters I had spent my previous five semesters studying from.

During spring session, I was fortunate enough to partake in an amazing program offered by my university. Each semester, the communications school sends a group of enthusiastic prospects from our upstate New York campus to spend a semester in Los Angeles. We are provided with housing and required to take two classes and a seminar. The rest of our credits are spent interning in positions of our choice. I spent my time in sunny L.A. split between two simultaneous internships. I logged at least 36 hours a week. And again, let me emphasize, I learned a lot.

I not only gained crucial industry skills, but I also learned some important life lessons. I know I will be able to take these skills and apply them in in my future positions. Here's my top five bits of advice!

1. Make The Coffee

In today's world, most internships do NOT require interns to make coffee. That being said, if you drink the last cup of coffee, make a fresh pot. The employees do, and interns look thoughtless and receive eye rolls in they do not.

2. Introduce Yourself

Make yourself known to people in your office. Tell them your name and where in the office you're interning. Let them know you're available to help. Make sure when you leave, people know your name, and get their email addresses so you can stay in touch.

3. Follow the Rules

Simple things like being on time and giving advanced notice prior to taking a day off WILL be noticed. If your internship allows for you to take three days off, that's a maximum, and not a number to be played with. While Spring Break might be tempting, remember what your focus is.

4. Take Notes

When your supervisor is speaking, take notes. Write down directions. Ask questions! Sitting at your desk will not make you look better in the long run. I was initially afraid of asking too many questions, but now I know that it's better to get it right the first time!

5. Check Your Work

Again, I wish I'd been more attentive to this at first. Make sure every copy looks perfect. Make sure none of your links are broken. DON'T BE SLOPPY. A print-out may seem mundane, but it really does give a first impression of how competent you are. I was once told that the people who don't make it in the real world are the ones who can't use a copier and don't know how to Fedex a package. Knowing how to do the little things correctly can really leave a mark, and soon, you'll be trusted with bigger things.

6. Find an Area of Expertise

I know A LOT about blogging and social media, and I used my relevant interests and knowledge to inform the higher-up people at my company. Speak up when asked questions. Explain your side. Interns are of a very viable market — our generation is one marketers have NEVER seen before and they are desperately trying to break into our minds! We are cluttered by new technologies and forms of communication, and traditional marketing techniques don't cut it for us. At your position, it is very likely the company has great interest in learning more from you. Be of use to them, and trust me, they'll be impressed.

Also, remember to write thank you notes when you've completed your work. People will see you actually have interest in what you're doing.

Most importantly of all, take your internships seriously. This is a first taste at the real world and WILL pay off post-graduation if you use it as more than a filler for your resume.

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