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How to Make the Most of College Internships

Tips on What to Do and Who to Know


While many students will take part in a college internship throughout their time in school, not everyone knows how to pick the best opportunities. Knowing how to best leverage the experience you gained while interning is also critical to your experience. You want to leave every internship with a letter of recommendation. If you’re among the lucky students who receive more than one interning opportunity during the same period, choose the one that speaks to your passions. Pick the one that offers real-world experience to make yourself an asset as an employee down the line. Finally, make an effort to engage in more than one internship throughout your college tenure. Try to apply to and get accepted to those that look the most impressive on a résumé!


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How to Be an Effective College Intern

Once you’ve been selected by an organization, to be as efficient as possible, you must be proactive, organized, on punctual. Make sure to avoid aggression and ask what you can do to help. Showcase your skills and areas of knowledge to be a great helping hand on all projects.


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Observe what’s going on throughout the workspace

Once you notice someone or a team that could benefit from your help, ask how you can assist them. If you’d like to request to join a particular project team, the key as a college intern is to firmly but politely assert yourself. You won’t get much further than getting the morning coffee and making photocopies if you aren’t assertive. However, if you’re aggressive with your requests or insert yourself into situations without asking first, you will likely make an all-around bad impression.


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Be a go-getter, but don’t be teacher’s pet

Once you believe your welcome and in the fold, those in charge will begin to take notice of how helpful, organized, smart, punctual, and invaluable you are to the team. However, don’t let all the praise go to your head especially if it’s all coming from one source. Accept compliments, of course, but don’t gush or accept invitations to attend one-on-one lunches. Use common sense and professional discretion. If you’re asked by a direct superior to hang out alone, reach out to the HR department. Handle stressful situations like this with care and as professionally as possible without humiliating your boss.


Embarrassing a superior who may be pursuing you for unprofessional reasons isn’t acceptable, but handling it professionally is your best bet. Publicly and impolitely responding to such advances will hurt your performance reviews and make the rest of your time there uncomfortable. HOWEVER, if you experience sexual harassment in the workplace — even as a college intern — it’s imperative, you visit human resources. If the harassment results in the termination of your internship, there are ways to fight back. To read more on some of the resources available to you click here. Sadly, unpaid interns are not always protected by U.S. sexual harassment laws. However, this is changing state-by-state and has already turned in a handful of places. To read more on that and self-initiated solutions click here.


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Create lasting, maybe even life-long relationships with other interns and workers

Wherever you wind up as a college intern, as you strive to make the most of your time, it’s critical that you make yourself as close to indispensable as possible. Doing so makes you memorable, and creates better odds that they will offer you a full-time job upon graduation.


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Don’t Be Scared to Ask Questions: You are There to Learn!

Some online sources suggest you should be careful which questions you ask when you are an intern. We feel there are no stupid questions. Barring the obvious questions like “Am I allowed to use the restroom?” or “Can I use my cell phone during work hours?” you should ask real questions. Ask about the business model or anything else you feel will give you a better understanding of the enterprise.


Sure, it’s great to do proactive things, and in so doing, naturally, questions will pop up. Visit the company’s website. Review the board of directors and upper management biographies. Next, check the daily NYSE. All of these actions are commendable and smart. To take it a step further, ask your direct supervisor or the CEO for any reading materials that will make you better in your position. You want to show that you’re taking your college internship seriously and that you have a vested interest in their company. If you receive things to read, make sure to take the time to read them — fast.


Researching the company or reading books recommended by your manager will naturally spark more intuitive questions and interesting conversations. Don’t use what you’ve learned to show off, but do make an attempt to impress those around you.


Regardless of the type of internship, make sure it fits your schedule. With all things, there’s a chance your prior obligations can get in the way of your internship. Make sure to such obligations with the person offering you the internship.


Remember, the more internships you take part in the greater the chance you’ll get a phenomenal job down the line.

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