The Ten Commandments Of A Successful Summer Internship

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Lit up theater sign that says "9 to 5"

If you want to excel at your internship, you won’t just be working 9 to 5. Come in early and stay late if you need to.

The life of an intern can be an odd whirlwind of monotony, hard work, and new experiences. It may come with coffee runs, seemingly pointless tasks, or data entry, but at the end of the day, internships are vital—to the employer and the intern.

Given that level of importance, you want make sure you have a good experience. Thanks to three summers spent interning, as well as a school year as a SALT™ intern, I know just what you must do to make that happen: Thou shalt follow these ten commandments of internships.


1. Thou Shalt Be There Before 9 And After 5

Yes, your company’s hours may be 9 to 5, but a good intern arrives early enough to be ready for anything and stays until all their work is done. And even if you have nothing to do, sit and wait until you’re sure the day is done.

Commuting during rush hours can make precise timing difficult. So, just make sure you aren’t the last one there or the first one out the door. Everyone notices that person—especially if he or she is an intern.

2. Thou Shalt Never Turn Down An Assignment

Go buy coffee. Run to Staples. File these documents. Move those boxes. Proofread this endlessly long spreadsheet. I never turned down any of them. Why would I? There’s no bigger intern red flag than refusing or ignoring an assignment.

As an intern, you’re at the bottom of the totem pole. Hopefully, your job will be more than just unappealing jobs that find their way down to you. If you show initiative and tackle these mundane tasks with excitement, it certainly will be.

3. Thou Shalt Follow The Dress Code … And Then Some

Many companies offer increasingly lax dress codes these days, especially in the summer. However, in my time as an intern, I always tried to look and act professional—even when coworkers and other interns didn’t.

While they dressed down, I tried to keep my appearance sharp. Over time, you’ll find what is truly accepted and what isn’t, but always err on the safe side.

4. Thou Shalt Be Prepared For Meetings

If you are invited to a meeting, you better be there on time and have a pen and paper. I learned this at my first internship and never forgot it.

Most of the time, you aren’t actually needed in meetings, but that doesn’t mean don’t pay attention. Meetings are an important learning experience. Don’t screw it up by interrupting, arriving late, or being unprepared.

5. Thou Shalt Not Text

Can you send a quick text to your mom or to a friend about an important matter? Sure. But should you have extended conversations about this week’s Game of Thrones or what’s going on Friday night? Never.

Keep your phone in your bag or pocket. If it’s urgent, go to the bathroom to handle it. If not, wait until lunch. You don’t want to be on your phone every time your manager stops by. That’s a bad look. Speaking of which …

6. Thou Shalt Not Be A Web Surfer Or Tech Nuisance

When you have work to do, you should never be surfing the Web. It should also go without saying, but you should never visit questionable websites or download anything either. That includes iTunes, Spotify, or any other software that isn’t work related.

If anything goes wrong with your computer because of something you did, the proof will be in the technological pudding—and you’ll be in trouble.

7. Thou Shalt Never Ask For A Raise

Come on. Maybe if your “internship” is secretly a full-time job you’re in for a year. But for a couple months over the summer? Just be happy you get paid. It wasn’t always this way!

8. Thou Shalt Follow All Company Rules

Always know your employer’s policies and procedures. If you don’t know the rules around wardrobe, business hours, or anything else, ask.

9. Thou Shalt Connect On LinkedIn

The connections made while interning, whether via LinkedIn or more actively, will continue to reap dividends. After graduation, these will be valued references and leads toward potential employment.

10. Thou Shalt Stay In Touch

This takes #9 to the next level. Continue to converse and be involved in any way with the companies you intern for. If you’re lucky, you’ll build a relationship and that can develop and grow.

Just look at me—a former intern still happily contributing here at the SALT Blog.

Do you have any summer internship tips? Let us know in the comments!

(Photo: litandmore)

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