How to be a good intern

By Medha Kulkarni. Medha is studying MA History of Art and Archaeology at SOAS University.

It’s always exciting to land your dream graduate internship at a company or organisation that you’ve always wanted to work at. As a student, the idea of work itself is exciting and of course, you’re determined to work hard, to impress and to please and to learn as much as possible. However, it’s important to know the right way to direct that enthusiasm to be able to get the most out of your internship and to do an outstanding job. So how do you ensure that you manage to work and contribute to the organisation while learning all that you possibly can? A few tactical movements is really all it takes and here’s how you can achieve that:

1. Give your supervisor some space :

When you arrive for work in the morning, don’t rush straight into your supervisor’s office and demand work. Wait for them to settle down and finish their early morning calls and emails. Once they’re comfortably settled, approach them and update them on the tasks you have completed and then ask for what they need to be done next. They’ll be less distracted and will have the time to discuss your work for the day with you.

2. Take initiative :

Although internship should be well structured and supervised, most employers aren’t going to be planning your day to day work for you. You need to be alert and seize opportunities. If you discussed a project or assignment with them earlier, come to them with any research or further ideas on that project. Suggest ways to take it forward.

3. Behave like an employee :

Don’t be in a hurry to finish the work at hand and leave as soon as you can. Being an intern, you won’t be expected to work as long as the regular employees, but do as much as you can. Involve yourself in the work process and show them that you are really committed to working and learning. An intern that goes beyond what is expected of them is more likely to make a mark and this could put you in a favourable position to be hired.

4. Open strong communication channels :

Keeping your supervisors updated is extremely important. Find out what yours prefer, a quick email in the morning or a chat in their office over coffee and then stick to it.

5. Cultivate a healthy spirit of competition :

Unless yours is a small organisation with few employees, chances are you won’t be the only intern around. Having a competitive streak is good; it motivates you to do your best. However, don’t let it get unhealthy. Don’t withhold information from other interns or be selfish about tasks. The best thing to do is make friends everywhere, at every level. It’s good for your future and network and it won’t ruin your work experience with messy office politics.

Internships prepare you for the realities of employment and you have to learn to deal with everyday office life without letting your work suffer. The best thing to remember is to take one day at a time and no matter what, always do your best.