7 Tips to Succeed at Your Summer Internship

7 Tips to Succeed at Your Summer Internship

By: Jeannie Chong
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Before I start, let me define the difference between “internship” and “co-op”.

Internship – usually offered in the summer within a one semester (around 10-12 weeks) work assignment time frame. It can be temporary, full or part time, paid or unpaid. For this article, I am going to focus on the paid internship.

Co-op – a program offered between the university and employers. Co-op students usually complete three work terms alternatively with school terms. Co-op positions are mostly paid full-time positions 4 or 8 months in duration. If you want to learn more about the SFU Co-op program, feel free to check out a Co-op Info Session.

You may already know the basics of being an intern:

  • Be punctual
  • Dress appropriately
  • Be polite to everyone (even the security guard of your building)
  • Be aware of your usage of social media (if your work is to tweet or blog, then go for it!)

However, what I am going to emphasize is all about these two words– learn and smile!

Learn to Plan – if you are not an organized person with the ability to multi-task, remember to plan ahead in between big projects or small tasks. Try to use the “Urgent”/“Important Matrix”.

Learn to Ask – “Is there anything I can help you with?” is definitely a question supervisors love to hear from interns. Most supervisors are approachable and supportive and would love to provide you with clarification or more direction. Remember, you are here to learn. There are no dumb questions; the dumbest thing is if you never ask.

Learn to Observe – echoed in the article by Forbes, Starting a Summer Internship? Here are 3 Words of Wisdom; the key to a successful internship is to pay attention to the good and the bad. You have to observe and understand how real work gets done.

Learn to Listen – not only to what your supervisor tells you, but also to be aware of the non-verbal signs, such as eye contact or posture.

Learn to be Confident – more often than not, we are afraid to speak up when in a new environment. If it is your first time in a corporate work environment, read one of my previous blogs, An Introvert Career Peer, WHY NOT? to see how even an introvert can become more confident in the workplace!

Learn to be Humble – humility remains a basic yet important virtue and every intern can benefit from keeping that in mind. To quote the famous American professional boxer, Mike Tyson: “I just want to be humble at all times.”

Lastly, don’t forget to SMILE! A simple smile can go a long way. As the Louis Armstrong’s When You’re Smiling lyrics state, “When you smilin’, keep on smilin’; the whole world smiles with you.”

Internships are a great competency builder and fantastic learning experience. People will notice your perseverance, genuine attitude and passion if you work hard. “Trust yourself, you know more than you think you do.” -  Benjamin Spock.

Jeannie ChongJeannie Chong is a Special Projects Assistant with SFU Career Services, and a fourth year student studying communications and publishing. Jeannie also volunteers at a radio station, spends time doing crafts and Chinese calligraphy, and loves to indulge her sweet tooth.

Lead image: creative-commons licensed photo by blumpy on Flickr. 

Posted on June 26, 2013