Ask the intern: How to stand out at your internship
“Hi Fiona, I’ve just started my dream international internship in London. I’m working at a huge, exciting company and I love it! The company has a fair few interns at the moment and has had loads in the past. The only thing that I’m slightly concerned about is that I feel I may be fading into the crowd. Just another average intern, you know? I really want to excel here and show my boss that I can go above and beyond. Do you have any ideas about how to stand out at work or at an internship?”- Sam
Hi Sam, it’s great to hear from you! Thanks for asking such a good question. This is a really common problem in big companies. It’s easy to be ok, just get your work done and leave at the end of the day, but this is not what your boss is looking for in an exceptional intern. Of course, every company, and every boss is different and looking for different things, but here are my tips on how to stand out at work or at your internship abroad.
1. Be proactive
One of the key ways to make yourself stand out at your internship is to be proactive, and to do things without being asked. The last thing that a supervisor or manager wants is to be constantly telling you what to do next. They are probably swamped under their own workload without having to think about yours as well. A great way to make yourself stand out and be seen as an asset to the company is to do your tasks without being asked. Show your supervisor that you are forward-thinking, resourceful and that you don’t need to be asked twice.
If you really want to go above and beyond, ask your supervisor or manager if you can learn more. Of course, only once you have finished everything that you need to get done that day. If you find yourself with some downtime it’s very easy to scroll mindlessly through the internet and end up reading incredibly mentally stimulating articles like, “vegetables that look like other inanimate objects”. Resist this urge! Why not ask your supervisor if there’s anything that they need some extra help with? Or ask if they could talk you through something that they are doing? If they say no, then that’s OK. You’ve still shown your interest and enthusiasm, and they will appreciate this.
2. Ask good questions
Someone once said that there is no such thing as a stupid question. Although this may, in a sense, be true, do not follow this logic in the workplace. If there are no stupid questions, there are definitely irrelevant ones. Make sure that you have tried your best to find the answer on your own before you bother your supervisor or manager. Google boasts a wealth of knowledge and will probably shed some light on whatever it is that you are confused about. In contrast to this, if your question is thought through and interesting, then ask away! Good questions can make you look interested, enthusiastic and excited to learn. Deciding what is and isn’t a good question can be tricky, but once you’ve mastered it you will become a shining light in the pool of interns.
3. Do more
Do more than what is asked of you. One of the best ways to stand out from the crowd is to show that you are going above and beyond. Every time you are given an assignment, make sure that it is completed to the absolute best of your ability. A great way to make sure that your work stands out is to review it once you’ve finished. When you finish a piece of work, look at it and think how it could be improved. Better formatting perhaps?
Another great way to do more is to build on the ideas that you’ve already given. This sounds like confusing advice so I will give you a real life example. Let’s say that you are an architecture intern and you’re asked to come up with some ideas for a boardroom. You could just write them down and hand them in. That would be perfectly acceptable. However, you could also write out your ideas, sketch a few models and even create a 3D image online. This logic works for all career fields. Going above and beyond what is asked of you is the fastest way to stand out at as an intern.
4. Arrive slightly early
I’m not saying turn up at the office at 6am with the birds chirping. But arriving slightly before the other interns or even your supervisor is a great idea. If when your boss arrives you’re already there and have completed a few key tasks, they’ll think you’re reliable and hard-working. Similarly, having extra time for your tasks means that you can ensure they are all fantastic pieces of work. You may even have time to work on another project which will only further impress your manager.
5. Take care with presentation
Presentation, whether it’s personal or in your work, is incredibly important. Make sure that you turn up every day looking smart, professional and ready to work. This shows a positive image to your superiors and makes it seem like you know what you’re doing. On the contrary, turning up with stained clothes, messy hair and odd socks may make it look like you’re disorganized, unprepared or even worse, just stumbling back from a rough night out. As well as personal presentation, make sure that the presentation of your work is also professional and neat. Don’t hand in work scribbled on the back of a scrap piece of paper. Make sure that everything is typed up and handed in (and no ridiculous fonts).
6. Be nice to everyone
I guess this is advice for general life, but being nice and friendly gets you a long way in the workplace. Make sure that you take the time to say hello to everyone in the morning. Learn everyone’s names and be genuinely interested when they talk. The nicer you are to people, the more that they will want to open up and talk to you. Making sure that you are a permanent friendly face around the office will undoubtedly help you to stand out.
7. Put forward ideas
My last tip for you is to put forward ideas. If you see something within the company that you think could be improved, then why not put forward your own solution? If you help to streamline a system or fix a problem, you will not only stand out from your peers but your work will be left at the company as a reminder of your greatness. Make sure that you bring forward your ideas in a positive way and at an appropriate time. You will need to have done some research and have some notes to back up your ideas. Your manager will love that you are taking the time to think outside the box.
An international internship is a great time to hone your professional skills and make contacts for later life. Making sure that you stand out from the crowd will only make these contacts stronger. You never know how they may help you in the future!