When companies take on a summer intern, the odds are very good that they’re not just looking for someone to fetch coffee and make copies. Internships are a recruiting tool for many employers. At the end of the summer, interns who stand out are often told that a job will be waiting for them after they graduate — they may even be asked to work part-time while they’re still in school. Even if you’re not offered a job at the company where you intern, you can still gain valuable professional experience and make connections that may come in handy when you’re starting your career.
As an intern, don’t make the mistake of thinking that you’re flying under the radar. Conduct yourself as if you’re being observed and judged at all times; this way, you won’t miss any opportunities to make a strong professional impression. Here are five ways to stand out in your summer internship:
1. Do what you’re asked to do and then some.
Complete every task (no matter how menial) with enthusiasm and energy — then offer to do more. This is the best way to be given more challenging tasks where you can really shine. It’s also a good way to make yourself indispensable to your employer and coworkers.
2. Make yourself heard.
Since an internship only lasts for a few weeks, you don’t have a lot of time to show what you can do. You could be a valuable asset to any employer, but no one will know that if you don’t speak up. Contribute to brainstorming sessions, ask questions and make suggestions. When it comes time to evaluate the summer interns, make sure that people know who you are for all the right reasons.
3. Write it down.
A lot of information may be coming at you in the early days of your internship, from assignment directions to tidbits about company culture. No one can remember everything, so take good notes. Review your notes often and jot down questions and assignment ideas to pitch to your supervisor.
4. Stay positive.
No matter how many hours you’re asked to work, keep a positive attitude. Your employer probably paid his or her dues to get to their current position and expects you to do the same. By showing your enthusiasm and keeping a smile on your face, you’ll be sending the message that you’re enjoying the opportunity that your internship provides.
5. Let everyone know what you want to do.
Make sure your supervisor and coworkers know about your future career plans. This could influence the assignments they give you doing your internship and could help you land a position with the company after your internship is over. It will also show that you’re motivated and thinking about your future career.
A summer internship can be a great experience but you’ve got to be proactive if you want to get the maximum benefit. Don’t be shy, get to know everyone on the job. You never know when a contact from your internship will turn into a career opportunity.
Melissa Woodson is the community manager and LLM guide for Washington University in St. Louis’ @WashULaw, a top-tier online LLM in U.S. law. In her spare time, she enjoys running, cooking, and making half-baked attempts at training her dog.