Make Your Mark: 5 Tips for Nailing Your Internship

Aisley Komatsu is graduating from the Marketing Communications program at the British Columbia Institute of Technology and is currently working towards her Bachelor of Business Administration. She has spent the last nine weeks as a marketing intern at Pressboard Media.

I’m certain so many people say this at the end of their internships that it’s become a cliché, but wow, have these nine weeks flown by! From launching a Google Ads campaign, to publishing my first blog post, to tackling the design giant that is Pressboard’s Digital Publisher Landscape, I’ve learned more in the last two months than I ever could from a textbook.

Aside from hard, ‘on-the-job’ skills and learning all about Pressboard as a company, some of the biggest takeaways for me have been the soft skills I’ve picked up from being in an office environment. I recommend a summer internship to any student, regardless of whether you’re getting course credit for it.

Once you’ve made the decision to apply for an internship (and I’m telling you — do it), make sure you read up to prepare yourself for the interview process. These are some great resources that I found extremely helpful when preparing for my application.

Once you’ve aced that interview and landed the gig, here are my top 5 tips to make a great impression at your internship.

Pick the Right Internship

No pressure or anything, but your internship experience, good or bad, hinges on the company you end up at. Do your research and ask around. Does this company have a good reputation? See if you can get in touch with a previous intern and ask them about their experience.

I’m fortunate that I had supervisors who were dedicated to training me and making sure I got the most out of my internship. But if the employer is more excited about free labor than a mentorship, I can almost guarantee it won’t be a good fit. Ask a ton of questions during your interview to get a clear idea of the expectations for both parties. What is their workplace structure? How do they measure success? Do they expect you to stay late?  In my opinion, a good culture fit should be one of your top priorities.

Ask More Questions

Ask lots of good questions. There’s nothing more frustrating to an employer than finding out that their intern just wasted an afternoon struggling with a task when they could have simply asked how to do it. Asking questions also shows your supervisors that you’re eager to learn and are paying attention.

That being said, make sure you’re not asking the types of questions that could be easily resolved with a Google search. Spend a few minutes searching for the solution. Then, if you still can’t figure it out, ask for help. Remember, you’re not expected to know how to do everything right away, but saying “I tried this own my own and I still can’t figure it out” shows real initiative and resourcefulness.

Get Social

As much as I advocate for a ‘work hard, sleep hard’ mentality, the best way to get to know your colleagues is in a social setting. Chat over lunch and say yes to drinks after work. The connections you make during your internship can lead to big opportunities later in your career. You want to make a lasting impression as an employee and an individual.

Ask for Feedback

A good employer should carve out time to give you feedback throughout the course of your internship, but things can get busy and that evaluation may slip through the cracks. Pick a time, like the end of the day, where your supervisor might have a few minutes to chat. You’re not an expert on anything yet, so asking about (and working on) your areas for improvement, again, shows initiative.

Don’t Take it Personally

Receiving feedback can be hard. Don’t take it as a personal critique when your work comes back to you with what feels like a million ways to improve it. Instead, look at feedback as an opportunity. People in every industry pay top dollar to have a professional appraise their work — you’re getting it for free! Take the assessments in stride and you’ll have fewer and fewer revisions every week. Plus, it’ll be that much more rewarding when you finally nail the assignment for the first time.

Say Yes (With a Smile)

The biggest (and best) feedback that I got during my internship was how pleased my supervisors were with my attitude. Saying yes to learning new things, taking on new projects and offering your thoughts is a win-win situation. This is the best opportunity for you to gain experience and doing it all with a smile will make sure you’re remembered as someone who’s easy to work with.

Your internship will be one of the most fast-paced, exciting times of your early career. Make the most you can out of it, and you’ll walk away with great experience that will lead you to the next big step in your career. Don’t stress, make sure you’re prepared, use these tips and be the best intern ever!

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