How to succeed at your internship
There's more to professionalism than wearing a suit
June 17, 2014, 7:11 pm · Updated June 18, 2014, 10:25 pm·
With internship season in full swing, Penn students scattered throughout the world might be wondering how they can take their positions to the next level. The Daily Pennsylvanian spoke with Career Services and Penn alumni who have capitalized on their own internships to put together a collection of effective insider tips.
Without an idea of job expectations, it’s difficult to meet or exceed them. This understanding applies to both the role of the intern as well as to the office culture, said Senior Associate Director of Career Services Barbara Hewitt.
“When I speak with interns or supervisors who have not had a good experience, it is usually because of misunderstandings,” Hewitt said.
Common miscommunications are not limited to the job description. Hewitt advised that interns should be wary of assignment due dates, levels of professionalism and correspondence with supervisors, including “checking in too frequently or not frequently enough.”
Hewitt also stressed the importance of making good first impressions. “It is much easier to work hard in the beginning of the summer to develop this positive impression than to try to correct or change a negative one after it has occurred,” Hewitt said.
2014 College graduate Jennifer Kang who will be working full-time at a major consulting firm, reiterated the importance of adjusting to the job.
“Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Supervisors generally respond more positively, even when they are busy, toward an intern who is proactive than one who is passive,” Kang suggested. “On the first couple of days, you should try to get a good sense of these factors to assimilate and maximize your performance and your own growth.”
While interns may spend a large amount of time around colleagues and bosses this summer, it is important to maintain a professional relationship, advised Director of Career Services Patricia Rose.
“Being clear on expectations, communicating with the supervisor and being professional are all extremely important,” Rose said.
Adequate professionalism in the office encapsulates more than a shirt and tie.
“Being professional also includes such things as not consuming alcohol at employer events if you are underage, and not posting on Facebook, tweeting or otherwise commenting about the workplace on social media,” Rose said.
IT’S A LEARNING
Kang used her four years at Penn and five internships to identify her career pursuits.
“In the stressful, yet enlightening process of the internship and job search and the actual internships, I learned a great deal, one of the most significant of which is that I personally need to be a bit more risk-taking, within reason,” Kang said. “Through my internships... I explored quite a few different fields within the financial realm. If I had not forced myself to try these out, I probably would not have felt as confident about the field that I will be entering in a couple months.”
2007 Wharton MBA recipient Alexandra Kenin — who currently works as a studio director at a marketing consulting agency and founded her own company, Urban Hiker SF — also benefited from an internship. While earning her MBA, Kenin was devastated when she did not receive an internship offer at her dream company, Google. Instead, she used her summer as a learning opportunity to refine her skills.
“I ended up with a mobile marketing internship at AOL where I would develop exactly the same skillset that I would need to be a Marketing Manager at Google,” Kenin said. “When it came time for full-time job hunting the next year, I had more skills on my resume, and was able to secure a job as a Mobile Ads Marketing Manager at Google.”
NOT THE END
OF THE LINE
Kenin stressed that internships are just a step in one’s career process.
“One of the major things I’ve learned from my summer jobs is that they don’t have to be perfect — they just have to take you one step closer to where you want to go with your career,” Kenin said. “You can take a lot of pressure off yourself if you think of internships as a means to an end, not an end in and of themselves.”