How to Shine in your Summer Internship

How to Shine in your Summer Internship main image

For many people, summer is a time to relax with friends and family, enjoying the hot weather and going on vacation. However, for many MBA students, the summer break means only one thing: internships.

The MBA internship is often cited as one of the most valuable aspects of the course and can often lead to a full-time position after you graduate, either in the same company or through a connection forged at the company. So how can you make sure you shine in your summer internship? Read on to find out...

Starting out in your internship

Before you begin your internship, do as much research as possible on the company you will be working for, and ensure you’re well-informed about the industry as a whole. Turning up on the first day switched on about the company will make it go far smoother and impress co-workers and superiors.

Your university careers service will probably be able to provide some information about your company, through databases or insider knowledge. You can also do your own research, online and by reading local press. Trade publications and relevant social media accounts are a great way to keep up to date with wider industry trends.

Once you’ve started your internship, don’t be afraid to take notes. You’ll be introduced to so many new people and processes that there’s no shame in making yourself a ‘cheat sheet’ and asking for clarification on issues - it’s always better to ask than be unsure and mess something up. Ask a lot of (intelligent) questions (so not ‘where’s the nearest Starbucks?’), as this will show your motivation and desire to learn.

When you first meet with your supervisor or manager, make sure to set some goals with them to ensure you get the most out of your internship. Ask for KPIs and regular feedback so you can see what progress you’re making throughout your internship.

The day-to-day of your internship

Show enthusiasm and commitment to the company and treat your internship as if it’s a full time-position. Try and get to know people in all departments, not just your own, as it’s a good way to network and it can also be rewarding to discover how different areas of the company operate and work together.

In meetings, and in conversations, don’t be afraid to make your opinions (respectfully) heard, as good companies will appreciate feedback from all levels. Being new to the business may give you the fresh insight they’ve been waiting for.

If you have any gaps in your day, don’t just sit there twiddling your thumbs. Offer to help with other tasks, do research for upcoming projects you know about in the company…basically just always keep busy. Don’t sit around waiting to be given a task, be proactive and ask.

As an intern, it probably goes without saying that you’ll have to do a certain number of menial tasks, such as getting coffee and photocopying or filing. However, if these tasks are taking up your whole day it’s wise to talk to your supervisor about it, as you don’t want the internship to be a waste.

Write a daily running log of your activities during your internship - tasks you were set, projects completed, meetings attended, and so on. You’ll likely be so busy that you won’t remember everything once your internship is over and you’ll want to know what you did for your resume. Also, keep a portfolio of your completed projects and make sure you can access it once the internship has finished, checking with your company first if any of the files contain confidential information.

Office etiquette

Take the position seriously and treat it like you’re a full-time member of staff. Don’t come in late or leave early, dress the part, don’t use your phone or browse Facebook at your desk, keep your desk area clean, and stick to deadlines. Put as much effort in (maybe even more) as you would in a full-time position, as your internship might be a stepping stone into a permanent role.

Keep an eye on your social media platforms. Make your LinkedIn as polished and complete as it can be and interact with industry news regularly, as new colleagues will often look at your profile when they find out your name. Avoid posting anything that could come back to haunt you on your personal profiles (ideally make them all private), tweeting ‘my internship is so boring’ or something similar is unprofessional and could get you into trouble.

Networking and professional development

Focus on building strong connections within the company, as they might be useful in the future and expand your sphere of influence. Ensure you’re not only focusing on networking with people high up in the company. Horizontal networking, especially with other interns, is just as valuable, especially as people who are your peers may become allies or friends.

Ask for informational interviews, where you will meet a variety of people in the company to learn about their work experiences. Try to schedule them outside of company time - your lunch break is ideal - but bear in mind they will probably have to be at the convenience of the person you’re meeting. Informational interviews are one of the most valuable things you can get out of your internship.

Your internship is a great chance to develop your skills (often without you even realizing), so before you start, work out some skills you’re lacking or could improve on and try to build your expertise in these areas. See if there are any workshops within your company (or externally) which you can attend and use the previously mentioned informational interviews to help you hone your skillset.

The end of the internship

Keep in touch with colleagues and supervisors after your internship has finished, from simply making connections on LinkedIn and liking posts to having catch-up coffees. A week or two before your internship is up, it’s a good idea to ask for a LinkedIn recommendation from your manager, as they are the letters of recommendation for the digital age.

At the end of your internship demonstrate your appreciation for the opportunity. Handwritten notes to relevant team members or tokens of appreciation such as baked goods are a good way to show your gratitude and go out on a high.

Written by Julia Gilmore

Julia is a writer for TopMBA.com, publishing articles for business students and graduates across the world. A native Londoner, she holds an MSc in Marketing Strategy & Innovation from Cass Business School and a BA in Classical Studies & English from Newcastle University.

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