Six Tips for College Students to Excel!
Your first summer internship? Feeling nervous? Not sure what to expect? Hoping you like it? Hoping you don’t mess up? Hoping people like you? Hoping you make some good connections?
Try not to worry too much. All the other interns feel the same way. And all their leaders know you have a lot to learn and hopefully won’t be throwing you in to sink or swim without a little orientation as to the temperature of the water. But here’s a few tips to help you out.
- Enthusiasm and a good attitude go a long way! Repeat that all day long. A smile will usually get a smile. Be interested in all the opportunities to learn around you. Be comfortable asking questions if you forgot something. No one is expecting you to get it all at once. Have a good mindset and practice keeping it
- Be on time and alert. Don’t be late. Don’t show up hungover. Get enough sleep. You’re brain is going to be working very differently than when you are taking a couple classes a day and studying on your own schedule. Conforming to a work schedule is a discipline and a responsibility.
- Ask questions before critiquing. Often it seems like people do things the hard way, the wrong way, or even a stupid way. Don’t critique. Ask a person “in the know” why something is done this way. There is very likely a good explanation, and the idea you were going to suggest might have already been tried. But if after learning more about something, you can add value, then speak up respectfully without arrogance. People will be more receptive if they know you understand the landscape and history before offering something new.
- If you do make a mistake, own it and apologize quickly. Figure out how to solve any mess you make, and ask how to do it right next time. Learn from it. Then thank the person who helped you and/or educated you.
- Plan to build your network. Try to make at least one relationship at 3 different levels in the organization. Your immediate manager is great for a reference, and their boss is great for information about opportunities. Ask them about their journey–how did they get there? What do they want to do next? What do they need to learn or do to make the jump? These answers will give you insights into what you need to learn and work on. Don’t forget your peers. Your peers are the third level, not to be forgotten. They might be at other companies next summer and can give you valuable information. In the future when you are leading people, you’ll want to network down the latter as well, but for now, keep it simple.
- See what you like or don’t like about this industry. At the end of the day, an internship is a test to see if this is where YOU want to spend your immediate future. Are these the people who will excite you? Drive your passion? Is the money in line with your lifestyle? Does it support your overall values? Are there growth opportunities and are they clear? You are trying out them as much as they are trying out you. Make your notes and observations for yourself. No matter what your major, you’ll have knowledge that will help you in any industry or job, so now is the time to keep an open mind about all the possibilities.
Enjoy your summer internship. You are going to be great!