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How to stand out while working as an intern

Published: Wednesday 24th March 2021

If you’ve managed to secure a great internship then congratulations! But the hard work starts now. Make sure you use your time working as an intern to learn new skills, showcase your talent and passion, and behave in a professional manner.

Most internships come without any guarantee of a job at the end. It’s up to you to prove your worth and integrate yourself with the company so well that letting you go isn’t even an option. We’ve put together some guidelines for a successful internship so that you can increase your long-term employment chances.

Young female working as an intern sitting at her desk looks at the camera

Perfecting the basics

Starting with the most important point first, and this is because it’s probably the one most interns end up damaging themselves with. The basics are things such as being on time, behaving in a respectful manner, politeness, networking with other staff and going about your work professionally.

Some quick tips you should follow are:

  • Don’t use social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or TikTok while at work – unless it’s for work related purposes or you’re on a break.
  • Don’t wait around to be told what to do next. It comes across as lazy and shows you lack initiative. Ask your boss for your next job or if you see something that needs doing, do it.
  • Try to arrive just slightly before you should start work. We’re not talking half an hour, or even 15 minutes. Just 5 minutes to allow yourself to settle in and get ready.
  • Ask your colleagues if they want a drink or want to go somewhere for lunch. Integrating with other people in the office is an overlooked part of internship success.

Make everything your own

This is a really clever way to constantly remind your employer and those around you what you can bring to the team. Find something that needs improvement or a long overdue refresh. Like the company email signature for example. You could design a more attractive looking and uniform email signature and share it with your boss to see what she thinks. Points for initiative and it could end up being used by everyone in the business.

Working as an intern you’re probably going to be spoon fed a lot of information and given instructions on how to do something. But guess what, the people giving you those instructions might have been giving them for the last 5 years. There might be a quicker way, a better way. Complete the work in a way that works best for you, and share your tips with your colleagues. If they’re learning things from you, then it shows great potential and a higher chance of a good recommendation.

The dilemma of working as an intern

Asking for help while working as an intern

A common problem you may find yourself stuck in is needing to ask for more information on how to do something, but also not wanting to pester your boss so that they can’t get any work done.

Try using the 10 minute rule. Give yourself 10 minutes to try and figure it out yourself. Google solutions, find tutorials on YouTube, ask another intern or colleague. If after 10 minutes you’re still stuck, ask your manager for help. They wouldn’t want you wasting another 10 minutes on something they might be able to help with in only a couple of minutes.

Orchestrating what you say

Honesty is something that we encourage, especially if you’re asked in a safe space about your feelings towards the job or other colleagues by a manager. But also remember that words can hurt you. Try to avoid office gossip, don’t moan to your colleagues about your job or your manager. You might need to get reference for your CV in the future. Also keep your lips sealed regarding anything personal that might be inappropriate for work. Like the fact you rolled into bed at 6am after a wild party and only managed an hour of sleep.

If you’re working as an intern without pay, you have my support. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t earn a salary for the work you do. But if you are working for a company who doesn’t pay its interns, try not to be too emotional either online or when talking about it with other staff members. Unless the skills provided from an internship opportunity in the UK is going to really improve your future employability then it’s worth questioning if unpaid internships are even worth your time.

How to be a good intern

Group working as interns look at the camera happily

Internships are a great way to gain experience, build up your skill set, grow your network of fellow industry professionals and sometimes secure a full time job after completing the internship program. But if you want to stand out you need to arrive on time, work hard, show some initiative, try to solve your own problems, integrate with other staff members and remain professional.

However, don’t be afraid to have fun at work. Sometimes showing your personality and being a fun person to be around is just as important when trying to secure a permanent job offer. Search for internships on Zoek today!

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