8 Tips for Making the Most of Your Summer Internship

by Dianne Orcutt

An internship is a great opportunity for you to learn more about a particular employer, industry, as well your own professional interests and strengths. I recently had the opportunity to participate in a panel discussion of the do’s and don’ts for law students preparing to begin their summer internships and clerkships. Each of the panelists had sound and practical advice; most of it universally applicable.  Here are some of the best tips for making the most of the experience:

  1. Know what you want to get out of the internship. Discuss with your supervisor or manager your goals are for the internship and work with him or her to create a program that addresses those interests. Internships vary widely. Some will be very structured while others will require you to take the lead in order to create a meaningful and enriching experience. In either situation, having a good idea of what you hope to gain from the experience.
  2. Have a good attitude. Technical knowledge in your field is always helpful, but do not underestimate the power of a good attitude. Show your employer that you are an enthusiastic about the work and excited to be there.
  3. Take pride in your work. Come prepared each and every day. An internship is a great opportunity to show that you pay attention to detail, follow instructions, produce quality work, and do a great job even when you are assigned boring tasks.
  4. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Ask good questions and take interest in others and the organization. If you have any questions about an assignment, ask them! It is infinitely better to get a good understanding of an assignment by asking questions than to complete the assignment or task incorrectly. Similarly, ask for feedback.
  5. Know your deadlines and meet them. If you’ve accepted an assignment, be sure to complete it by the requested date. If you are unable to make the deadline, let your supervisor know ahead of time that it will be late. I have had interns that simply never turned in their work. I would have preferred it late than never.
  6. Dress appropriately and professionally. That will mean different types of clothes in different internships, but always dress your best, even or perhaps especially on casual days.
  7. Treat all other employees and fellow interns with respect, regardless of where you feel they “rank” within the company. Treating another employee poorly is one of the easiest ways to sabotage your internship. Watch what you say in elevators and hallways, and always beware the dangers of ‘Reply All.’ Avoid office gossip.
  8. Network and seek out mentors. People are usually eager to answer questions, address concerns, and otherwise assist interns. It may be tempting to do most office communication by email, but take time to get face-to-face time with those you are working for. Those who you work with now may very well become colleagues in the future. Let them get to know you!

At the conclusion of your internship, thank those employees who helped you most. Stay connected with colleagues and mentors on LinkedIn (great tips on that here and here) and stay in touch throughout the year. The experiences and connections made during an internship can pay dividends for years.

Happy interning!

What advice would you give new interns?

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