internship guide

In between the end of one school year and the start of another are three months of opportunity, excitement and growth for interning college students — if pursued!

Internships serve as a prime opportunity for students to get a glimmer at a day in the life of their desired position or industry, and can play a key part in a student affirming their passion or bringing to light that their strengths would be better suited elsewhere.

In a number of industries, students are only able to earn academic credit for their internship and are not paid monetarily; they work long hours for numerous months with no paycheck. But, no pay doesn’t necessarily mean no gain.

Three months of a summer workplace internship can be a unique time to showcase skill, passion and eagerness to a potential future employer. If approached positively, three months of interning could yield an increased or new set of skills, a letter of recommendation, an employer reference or even a future job.

Doors to my current position opened because of a post-graduation internship. Though I was accepted for an internship in the editorial department, a supervisor approached me about also helping out the photo department with their tasks. My time interning in the photo department led to a photo assistant position, which eventually opened doors to my current position in the editorial department.

So, how to maximize these three months? Below are three things to do and three things not to do in order to get the most out of your summer internship.


1. Listen and ask (lots of) questions.
One of the most important — if not the most important — keys to success is listening and asking questions. Enter your internship prepared by bringing along a trusty journal to write notes in and jot down questions. Once you’ve gotten your feet wet, be bold in asking employees in your desired position if you can pick their brain over lunch or coffee. You may never know the answer unless you ask the question!

2. Be willing to tackle tasks outside of your comfort zone.
Though your internship supervisor may have written down a list of duties and responsibilities for your summer position, be open to tasks that are outside your comfort zone. Writing may not be your knack, but don’t stray away from it because of an insecurity. Showing your supervisor that you have a willingness to try speaks volumes about your attitude and moldability as a future employee.

3. Pitch ideas.
Just because you aren’t a paid employee of a company doesn’t mean you aren’t highly valuable. Your supervisor saw something in you that they think would contribute positively to the company, so be willing to share, pitch and brainstorm ideas. An idea of yours just might be what the company next implements into their practices. At the end of your three-month term, you want the company to remember you not as an intern, but for the good work and positive attitude that you brought. Be bold and pitch!


1. Think you know it all.
There is a difference between confidence and cockiness and it’s important that you exude the first. Though you may be very gifted with a skillset or craft, don’t be unteachable. The company has some very talented and seasoned employees that you can glean and learn from. Be intentional about listening more than speaking and being open to learning new methods and practices than you were previously taught in school.

2. Complain.
Rather than thinking about the glass half empty, choose to view it as half full. You were chosen out of a pool of candidates for the position that was given to you, so be excellent in your work and be a positive and approachable intern. If the employer notices that you’re negative about menial tasks, they may give your work to another intern to be completed, which decreases your ability to excel and showcase your skills. Strive to be remembered for your positive outlook versus a negative attitude.

Strive to be remembered for your positive outlook versus a negative attitude.

3. Take it for granted.
It’s good to be excited about your internship and want to share the joy with others, but make sure not to take your time with the company for granted. Three months flies by faster than you’d think, so be intentional about working hard on the days that you’re in the office and ask if there are any extra tasks you can do to help. Internships are a way for employers to test out potential future employees, so be your best self in all you do. There are other people who applied for and wish they were in your current position, so maximize your time and the available opportunities.

What was the best internship that you ever had? What did you learn from it?

Image via Stephanie Dimiskovski


1 comment

  1. Your list of Dos and Don’ts are spot on. I am currently changing careers and getting back into the job search and considering many different internships as well as entry level jobs. Thinking back to internships I had when I first graduated from school, I realized how important they were in shaping my skills and confidence in my field. I’m hopeful the same experiences arise as I enter a new field.

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