- Never Shun a Chance to Learn More About the Company/Industry. Take every opportunity presented to you to attend company or industry meetings, conferences, and events; participate in training workshops; and read all company materials. Hint: Meetings may appear (and actually be) boring to you, but they can often offer a good chance to increase your knowledge, network, and build relationships.
- Get as Much Exposure as Possible. Some of the best internships rotate you among departments and supervisors, but if yours doesn’t, don’t let that stop you from tackling new tasks, meeting people outside your department, and attending company social events. The more you are exposed to new ideas and new people, the more you’ll learn. Hint: Joining the company softball team (or other informal group) is a great opportunity to meet new people in a relaxed and informal environment.
- Don’t be Afraid to Ask Questions. Always remember that an internship is a learning experience for you. While the employer expects to get a certain level of work from you, you are not expected to know everything. Seek advice and raise questions whenever you encounter something that is not familiar to you. Be open-minded about new ideas and procedures — remember that you don’t know everything and that your professors didn’t teach you everything. Hint: Smart people know that there really is no such thing as a dumb question, so ask before doing.
- Take Initiative. Employers love employees who dive into tackling tough problems and who think “outside the box” in finding solutions. Just make sure you work with your supervisor(s) so you don’t overstep your authority — and make sure you share successes with her. Hint: There is a fine line between taking initiative and being perceived as a “know-it-all,” and for interns especially, it is best to err on the side of caution.
- Find a Mentor. A mentor is someone at a higher level in the organization that looks out for you and makes sure you are learning what you need to know and accomplishing what you need to do. A mentor can also shield you from office politics and be a good sounding board for you to discuss ideas, ask questions, etc. Hint: Your supervisor could be your mentor, but it could also be another person within the organization.