First impressions count! Internships are changing; we are seeing an increase in paid internships now like never before, guaranteeing better working conditions and rewards for interns, at the same time as we are seeing interns take on more responsibility and achieve far more at the companies they work for than ever before.
Yes, there are still internships out there which fulfil the more negative stereotypes of being either little to no pay, unfulfilling (there are only so many coffees you can fetch in a day), and genuinely not very productive or helpful towards future career prospects. But at the same time, it has never been more important to focus on making a good impression in an internship, as the boost it can do to your potential career path can be enormous.
The obvious first question is “Well how do I do that?”. As I have said, internships are changing and the role of the intern is becoming more like that of another regular working employee in some areas, but still remaining stagnant in others. One of the key things to remember though straight away, is that whilst you may work here in this space you are interning at, this is not your job, or not yet anyway. You have to earn your place in the business/company going forward, and the first thing you should do before you even walk into the building is make an effort to learn as much as possible about the place you are going to be completing your internship.
Knowledge is power, as the old proverb goes, and the more knowledge you accumulate in a shorter period of time will not only help you get to grips with your internship faster but will also make an impression on those you are working under/trying to impress. Companies like people who adapt quickly to their new surroundings and who can be trained to do a job quickly. It saves time and money, so the more that you can do, the better chances you have of making a good impression straight away. If you struggle with memory retention, then use a notepad or the one that most smartphones contain these days, to keep yourself on top of things.
Naturally, hard work is always important when it comes to impressing on an internship. Some internships are not necessarily harder than others but do require a bit more focus and energy, and that is to be expected. Most of the time, when someone asks you to do something you should do it, immediately, even if it means juggling or dropping what you are doing at the time. Some offices will set out to test, if not take outright advantage of having an extra body around to pick up slack or assign them lengthy tasks that free up more valuable employees time. Some of these might be quite thankless, as anyone who has spent several hours metaphorically chained to a photocopier will know, but it is just something you have to do sometimes, in any form of employment.
There are definitely some limits though as to what you should do and who for. It is unfortunate that horror stories of interns being forced to endure some truly unpleasant things and people exist, but thankfully these incidents are occurring less and less. Self-confidence is just as important as hard work and being a team player, and it is vital to remember that you are in your internship to do a job, not be exploited or taken advantage of. Knowing when enough is enough and to say something can be quite tricky, particularly depending on what your threshold is for stress and work-fatigue, but that doesn’t mean you should never say anything. Your diplomacy when dealing with whatever issues you have will not go unnoticed, nor will the fact that you had the guts to come forward with them, and there are more employers who are appreciative of this then you might think.
In conclusion, an internship, in theory, can be far scarier than it is in reality. But that does not mean you should not be looking to give your absolute best towards everything you do whilst you are in it.