Q. Karen, our company has always had a lot of summer interns. Most of them are college students who are interested in going into our type of business. However, many of them sabotage their chances of getting a job with our company by the way they behave while interning here. What are your best tips for these young people?
A. An internship is a wonderful opportunity to discover if you like a certain field and learn from experienced people in a particular industry. And many of those internships can turn into a job opportunity after graduation. So, taking the experience seriously is very important.
So, here are some tips to make the best of the situation:
*Conduct yourself in a professional manner. Don't come into an internship thinking it is just a casual summer job. Be serious about it and learn as much as you can from the people you work with.
*Dress the part. Know the dress guidelines of the company and take yourself up a notch above that. This is not the time to show up with wet hair or sloppy, inappropriate clothes. Dress for wherever the day may take you.
*Learn the corporate culture. Pay close attention to how things work in the company for which you work. Know what is important and why.
*Be respectful. Avoid getting too familiar with the people you work with. When in doubt, address people formally, until you are invited to do otherwise. Always keep in mind that you are in a work situation.
*Do more than your share. And don't be afraid of menial tasks. The not-so-fun tasks are part of any job, so be willing to do your part and do it well. You are being assessed for the way you work, and being pleasant in those menial tasks can lead to tasks with more responsibility.
*Learn from the seasoned professionals. Watch the people who are leading the way. They have most likely advanced in the company because of their work ethic and skills. And this is the time to start forming valuable relationships that can serve you later in life.
*Ask for feedback on how you do things. This is a great time to have your work assessed by a manager or supervisor and help you be a better worker.
*Avoid cliques and office gossip. Don't get pulled into tight groups. It can be very damaging for all involved. Listen more and say less.
*Be professional in off site work/social or work/sporting events. A company sporting event or party is still part of your work experience. Be sure to dress appropriately and monitor your drinking if alcohol is offered if you are old enough to drink. If you are not old enough to drink, decline any alcohol offered.
*What happens at the company picnic may not be forgotten at work on Monday morning.
I do believe that companies have a responsibility to interns they take on. Make sure you acclimate them to your company and how it works and make good use of their time and talents. Keep them busy.