The Collegiates' Guide to Professionalism: Internship Etiquette

Summer internships are one of the best ways for college students to gain experience in a particular field they are interested in. How you spend your summer can be integral to your college experience and attaining a job after graduation. I've had summer jobs and one internship so far (this summer I have another internship I am super excited about) and I've seen the best of times and the worst of times.

So today, we're talking about internship etiquette. I know many of you are embarking on a summer internship, maybe even your first one. It's important for you to conduct yourself in a classy way during internships so I wanted to share some valuable things I've learned as an intern starting with some materials that, I think, are necessary for an intern to have!

  1. A notebook - If you have weekly meetings, this notebook will be for writing down all the tasks assigned to you. One friend from my first internship did this and she was, hands down, the most organized intern.
  2. Writing utensils - A pen, pencil, highlighter, and a permanent marker. Trust me, there will be one point where you'll need each of these things.
  3. Chargers - For your phone, laptop, and/or tablet. During my last internship, I used my phone and computer every single day for work. It's necessary to have a charger 24/7 when you use technology that much.
  4. A lunch box (with lunch in it!)- Interns can definitely not afford to eat out all the time. Designate days that you're going to eat lunch at the office and days that you and your friends will go out. It'll save you some money and you can plan healthy lunches!

Now, onto the heartfelt, insightful advice.

 

Be ready to learn. Literally, the definition of the job title "intern" means a trainee, apprentice, novice, beginner. This means that you are not the expert. Don't act like you are. You've been given the opportunity to peek inside the company/agency/organization's day to day function for the summer/semester. It's your job to learn how the operation runs and do whatever is asked of you. Which leads me to my next point.

Do your job, no matter what the task is. One of my jobs during one internship was to type and format over 100 thank you letters for my boss to be sent out. She had specific stationary she wanted to have them printed on, and it wasn't just a flat card. It was one that you folded in half. I had to figure out how to get all of the typing on the bottom half of the card. It was rough, took me days to get the format the way she wanted it to look, and then I had to address them and make sure they went to the right people. PS, bulk mail is the worst. But I did it, got it done as quickly as possible and moved on to my other tasks. I'm sure other people have much worse intern stories, because this wasn't all that bad. It was just time consuming. As an intern, be prepared for your time being eaten up consistently.

Don't be afraid to contribute ideas! I know I just said you were there to learn, and trust me you will. But that doesn't mean you don't have great ideas. My first summer job was working at a summer camp. Each Sunday when the kiddos were dropped off, their parents also left mail for them. The mail had to be sorted in a specific way so that the mail went to the correct kid on the correct day. When I did my internship at a church, they were trying to figure out a better system for mail while at camp, because the one they were using was ineffective and made other kids feel left out. I suggested the mail system I had seen operated at the other camp and my boss thought it was a great idea. Use your past experiences and don't be afraid to contribute when you have a good idea.

I hope my tips for internship etiquette were helpful! I know I walked in blindly to my first internship, and I believe it hindered me from being the best intern I could be. However, the best part of internships is that they are all about gaining experience! I hope my experience is helpful to you!