A Quick List of Important Internship Do's and Don'ts

Internships are an exciting time in your academic career. Just follow these do's and don'ts to make sure you fully benefit from all of your hard work.

Internships are an exciting part of your college career. They can help you determine which career paths (and perhaps even a new major) truly fit you. And they provide the hands-on, real-world experience and transferable skills that are critical to finding a job after you graduate. Best of all, it’s within your power to ensure you have an amazing internship experience—no matter what you're doing. To help guide you through the entire process, review this list of do’s and don’ts to make sure you fully benefit from all of your hard work.  

Internship do's

Follow these simple guidelines to impress your new co-workers, leave a lasting good impression, and gain as much as you possibly can from your internship experience. 

  • Geting an internship: Do complete an internship during your college career. In fact, try to get multiple internships to give you a better idea of what you might want to do as a career.  
  • Preparing your résumé: Do have a polished résumé that has been reviewed by your peers or your school’s career center. This will ensure a professional-looking résumé.
  • Writing a cover letter: Do write and submit a cover letter in addition to your résumé. Many employers won’t even consider your application without a cover letter. (You'll find both résumé and cover letter tips in this job search guide.)
  • Readying for your interview: Do use mock interviews to refine your skills. Many college career centers offer this service for free to their students.
  • Being appreciative: Do write thank you emails and/or notes to all who interview you and assist you in your internship. This is often overlooked by many applicants, so you will certainly set yourself apart.
  • Planning out your time: Do set specific goals for your internship so you know exactly what you want to accomplish. These can often be defined with your internship coordinator and/or supervisor as well.
  • Acting professional: Do remember that you are in a professional setting, and you will be treated as a professional. It is expected that you behave professionally at all times throughout your internship.
  • Being communicative: Do meet with your internship supervisor regularly. This will help you track your performance and work on areas that you need to improve.
  • Being a valuable asset: Do get as much exposure in the organization as possible. Find your role and claim ownership of your projects. This will bring recognition to your work ethics and value.
  • Connecting with someone: Do find a mentor within the organization if you can. It doesn’t have to be your immediate internship supervisor, as it’s possible they will be very busy. Keep in mind that the best mentors won’t just lead you; they will also inspire you.
  • Learning from it: Do keep in mind that it is your responsibility to leave your internship with new skills, accomplishments, and a better understanding of your field.
  • Taking the opportunity to network: Do keep in touch with people who play a major role in your internship even if the experience was not the best. They will become part of your professional network that may be helpful in the future of your career.
  • Adding it to your résumé: Do update your résumé with accomplishments from your internship. Your résumé should be full of talking points that can be used in future interviews.
  • Having fun!: Last but not least, do enjoy your internship. At times, you may feel that all you are doing is grunt work, but keep at it and your hard work will eventually pay off.

Internship don'ts

These very simple things are often overlooked by students who don't realize how important a successful internship can be to their career.

  • Boxing yourself into your role: Don’t pass on an opportunity to gain experience beyond the official scope of your internship. It’s good to be proactive and go above and beyond what is expected of you.
  • Staying quiet: Don’t be afraid to ask questions when things are unclear. To get the most out of your internship, you need to be open to learning new skills and techniques.
  • Ignoring free resources: Don’t forget to take advantage of all the benefits your college or university career center has to offer. It isn’t uncommon for them to have leads on a multitude of opportunities.
  • Giving up when it gets hard: Don’t ever give up on your quest to obtain an internship. Use and exhaust all your options: college career center, family, friends, professors, cold-calling, LinkedIn connections, etc.
  • Leaving on a bad note: Don’t burn any bridges. Even if your internship experience wasn't what you hoped it would be, the contacts that you make may come in handy in the future.
  • Listening to your supervisor: Don’t overstep any boundaries. Keep in mind that you are an intern and your ultimate goal is to learn and provide as much value as possible.
  • Slacking off: Don’t forget to take every chance to shine and stand out. That way, if there’s a job opening in the future, you might be the first person that comes to mind!

Related: What Are Internships Really Like?

Your internship should be nothing but a stellar experience. And by preparing ahead of time, you’ll set yourself up for success. By following these internship guidelines, you’ll know how to impress your internship organization and avoid making mistakes that could cost you a future reference—or potentially a full-time job with that organization. But if you just try your best, you will squeeze every last drop of benefit out of your internship experience and pave the way to a brighter future!

Want specific career advice from experts who know best? Check out the answers to your burning questions in our Internships and Careers—Ask The Experts section.

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