The Ultimate Guide to Being the Best Intern Ever

As you probably know, I’ve been interning for a company in the past couple months. I’ve been living the marketing intern life since January, and it’s hard for me to believe that it’s all going to be over in a few weeks (less than 3!). Over the past few months, I’ve learned the ins and outs of being an intern, and what it takes to be the best one there is.

What do is take to be the best intern ever? Click through to find out!

Now, I’m not proclaiming myself to be the best intern ever (people at work, if you are reading this, please note that this is definitely not how I see myself!), but I do have a few tips to help you get the best experience you could imagine, most of them learned through trial and error. So, how do you become the best intern ever? With these tips! 

Be proactive

There will probably be times when you’ll just be sitting there, waiting for your supervisor to assign you a task or a project (especially at the beginning of your internship). Or maybe you’ll be waiting for someone to answer your email so you can continue working on that project. But one thing that I learned early as an intern is that you should try to be proactive. Don’t wait for things to happen; make them happen. 

If you’re stuck on something, ask the right person. If you can’t continue working on something because you’re waiting for feedback or because someone else is supposed to give you the missing piece of the puzzle, try to anticipate what is coming next. You might not be able to work on that part, but is there really nothing else you can do to move forward? If you really can’t continue that assignment, work on something else. I’m sure you have more things you can work on. Trust me, your supervisor will love you for it!

Take the initiative

Don’t always wait for your supervisor to ask you to do something. If you can do something and you know it will have to be done eventually, just do it! I’m sure your supervisor and colleagues will appreciate it. Don’t hesitate to take the lead on a project if you think you can do it. It’s great experience and you can add it to your resume!

Don’t hesitate to ask questions

When I first started my internship, I was hesitant to ask questions to my supervisor. I mean, she’s so busy, I don’t want to distract her or keep her away from doing her work! The introvert in me thought I could just figure things out on my own. And while that’s not a bad reflex altogether, you have to get over yourself and ask questions when you’re blocked or don’t understand something.

I would sometimes waste hours trying to fix a problem that could have been fixed in minutes had I just asked my supervisor or my colleagues. Asking questions is not a bad thing! And it’s totally normal, especially in the beginning. You can’t be expected to know everything about your field or the company you’re working for. It’s okay not to understand everything at first. Asking questions shows that you’re interested and that you’re willing to put in the effort, so ask away!

Follow up with your supervisor often

If you have to remember anything about this post, let it be this. Honestly, I cannot stress this enough (and my supervisor would say the exact same thing!). Whatever your internship is, chances are your supervisor will let you handle quite a few projects, or will let you assist him or her with whatever he or she is working on. And if it’s something that might strain for a couple or weeks – months, even -, you have to let them know where you are at and how things are going.

A good way to do that is to copy them on all of your emails (emails that concern them or the projects they gave you, anyway). Like this, they can know what is going on and see how things are moving forward. This is a lot easier than forwarding them every answer you get!

Another effective way to do this is to set up weekly (or bi-weekly) update meetings with them. Block a good hour in both of your schedule’s every week and see how things are going. My supervisor and I have not done this enough, but I always feel so much better after our meetings! I get the answers that I need, sort out my priorities, and I can get her feedback on the work that I’ve done so far. If this is not possible for you, writing a weekly report to your supervisor or putting up a good update system with them (my supervisor and I use an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of the projects I’m working on) can be a good way to do this.

Learn to say no

Being an intern means that you’re here to help out. And people might want to take advantage of that. It’s not rare that more than one person on my team requested my help with something – big or not. And as the intern, you probably don’t want to tell anyone you can’t. I mean, you’re here to learn, right? Well, that’s not exactly true. Think about it. Does every single thing people throw at you help you learn? Probably not. Writing emails, following up on calls and formatting documents is probably not the most valuable thing you can do to maximize your experience as an intern. If you have the time to dedicate to it, then, great! But this must not come in the way of things your supervisor gave you. Afterall, you’re working for them, not the rest of the team! So you have to learn to say no when you just can’t take anything else on your plate. Trust me, otherwise, it can get overwhelming quickly. I learned this the hard way, and people won’t hate you or think you’re lazy just because you can’t take on yet another project!

Get organized

If you are anything like me, chances are you are going to have to handle more than one project at once. And trust me, when you have a never-ending to-do list, you have to get organized quickly, otherwise you’ll never get anything done. Figure out early a way to keep track of everything you need to do and where you are at.

I personally keep a weekly to-do list in a notebook so I can cross off tasks as I go. I also keep an Excel spreadsheet with every project that I’m working on so my supervisor and I can see where I am at with everything.

I try to be organized with every aspect of my professional life. I created different folders on my computer to organize my projects and documents that I work on, I created different folders to organize my inbox, etc. Honestly, being organized is a must when it comes to being a great intern. Your life will be so much easier if everything is done on time and everything is easy to find. Everyone’s organization system is different, but find out what works for YOU and stick to it!

Being an intern is such a great experience and I’m honestly so happy that I got to do mine at such a great place. I had a great time and I hope my colleagues appreciated me as much as I appreciated them. If you have the opportunity to be an intern somewhere, do it!

Have you ever had an internship? What are your tips to being a great intern?

 

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  • Girl, the ask questions thing is so relateable and on point!
    My first internship fresh out of college I was SO shy (I mean, I still am kind of) and hated asking questions. I didn’t want people to think I was just “some dumb intern” but not asking questions can actually lead to much worse if a situation snowballs.
    These are such great tips for anyone who’s just starting out in the professional field. I definitely could have used these back in the day.

    Darrian
    http://www.darrianmichelle.com

    • Girl, I can relate to you so much! I am super shy too, and I didn’t want to see like some “dumb intern” either. I would sometime sit for hours at my cubicle, waiting for the right moment to ask the question. Waiting meant that I couldn’t continue working on whatever task I had, because I needed an answer for my question. Eventually, I had to get over myself and stop waiting for people to come to me. If I wanted something, I had to go to THEM. Because there was no way for them to know that I had a question! So I couldn’t wait for them to magically appear and give me the answer I needed.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post, thanks for reading Darrian!

  • This is great! I’ve been interning full-time this summer (and every summer since I was a freshman!) and I’ve noticed that taking initiative and speaking up makes such a difference! When I was a freshman intern I BARELY SAID A WORD to my editor and I so regret it! I was too shy and quiet but now I love making genuine connections with the people I work with and proving to them I can handle a lot! We make inside jokes and discuss tasks and the news and stuff, it’s lovely. I always struggle with not biting off more than I can chew…Saying no is definitely hard, but that’s a wonderful tip to include.
    paige / eyeliner wings & pretty things

    • I totally agree with you! When I first started my internship, I barely said a work to my supervisor and my colleagues, and if my internship had been shorter I know I would have regretted it. Thankfully, I got out of my shell and started to talk them! Now I feel like they are my friends, which makes the work environment so much better. 🙂 I agree that saying no is really hard. It’s something that I still struggle with, but I think it’s really important if you want to be able to do a great job! You can’t be everywhere and do everything while still doing your best work. That’s just not possible. We need to focus on what really matters!

  • This is an awesome guide! I’ve been a full time intern this entire summer and I completely agree with your suggestion to ask tons of questions! I was afraid I would be bothering everyone by asking lots of questions, but your supervisor and coworkers WANT you to ask questions. The whole point is to learn and gain experience! Great post and I wish I had seen this before the summer began 🙂

    Hannah / http://www.honestlyhannahblog.com

    • Girl, same! I felt like I was bothering everyone, but, as you said, your supervisor and coworkers WANT you to ask questions! How are you supposed to learn if you’re too afraid to ask questions? I hope you had a great time at your internship!