Internships: surviving & thriving

Matthew Simari (’12) knows how to rock a summer internship.

Simari, a senior computer science and political science double major who serves as the student trustee, spent the last three summers in Washington, D.C., first as an intern with the WAKE Washington Program and, most recently, as a summer scholar at Deloitte.

Simari is not alone in his pursuit of performing well, developing transferable skills and fostering strong relationships over the summer. In fact, today’s students have more reasons than ever to make the most of their internships.

According to a recent report by Michigan State University and the Collegiate Employment Research Institute, internships have steadily increased over the last decade and are now organizations’ primary source of talent recruitment.

Even if full-time job offers do not follow, managers of high-performing student interns often become their biggest advocates in future job searches, according to Patrick Sullivan, Assistant Director of Personal and Career Development.

Sullivan, who for more than 15 years has helped students maximize their internship experiences and distinguish themselves among a sea of new faces, offer 10 tips for interns this summer:

1. Work hard – Do whatever is needed and do not assume that your education equips you with so much knowledge that executing low-level projects is beneath you. Don’t be the intern that turns their nose up at the “little” jobs.

2. Pay attention – After all, everyone else is. You never have a second chance to make a first impression, so even the small things matter. Remember that people you work with today will be key advisors and allies in your job search tomorrow.

3. Do your best – The quality of every task you complete and every interaction you have with colleagues and managers affects how they perceive you. This does not mean you have to be the expert on day one, but it does means that you should show up ready to do your best every day.

4. Seek extra work – Show your willingness to go above and beyond the job description. Be proactive in asking for more projects and responsibilities. Look for opportunities to assist co-workers and volunteer for assignments that interest you.

5. Develop your skills – Challenge yourself by helping out with projects requiring you to develop skills that you don’t use very often. Observe the skills used by people in the kinds of positions in which you envision yourself working, and polish those skills.

6. Be a team player – In today’s workplace, more and more work is project-oriented, which means you will be working on teams. If you are a strong team player, you will be a strong intern.

7. Seek feedback – Get a sense for what you do well and what you need to improve.  Ask for specific suggestions on how you can get better and make it a point to do so.

8. Network with co-workers – Everyone you meet is a potential member of your network. The more people who know you and your work, the more support you will have when it comes to turning your internship into a full-time job. Some of these co-workers will act as references if you decide to conduct your job search in another career sector or company.

9. Find a mentor – A mentor can make a big difference. If you have the opportunity, try to develop a relationship with someone who can guide and support you in your internship, your efforts to secure a full-time offer and beyond. Ask to take that person to coffee to learn about his or her experiences and career path.

10. Stay in touch – Leave on the best possible terms. Always thank your manager for the internship. Connect with colleagues on LinkedIn. And if you are interested in working at the organization full-time, by all means, ask about openings.

Matthew Simari

This advice certainly helped Simari, who accepted a full-time position at Deloitte following the completion of his internship. He acted on Sullivan’s tips as well as some of his own.

“You have to demonstrate a passion and know your own personal brand,” Simari said. “I wanted to be known as the smart, hardworking guy who always had a smile on his face. That’s who I am, and that’s who I’ll continue to be when I start as a full-time employee this summer.”

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