By Thaimi Fina
Finally, summer is here! And lucky for you, you’ve just landed a great summer internship! You enrolled in the Toppel Internship Program (TIP) and you’ll be starting your internship in the upcoming weeks. Congrats on not spending the whole summer on your parents’ couch mooching off their free food and laundry service. We’re all very proud. So you’ve secured your internship, now what? Let us here at Toppel (with the help of my favorite TV show ‘The Office’) show you how to make the most of your summer internship experience.
What is the single most important thing for a company? Is it the building? Is it the stock? Is it the turnover? It’s the people. The PEOPLE. My proudest moment here wasn’t when I increased profits by 17%, or cut expenditure without losing a single member of staff. No, no, no, no. It was a young Guatemalan guy, first job in the country, hardly spoke a word of English, but he came to me and he went “Mr. Scott, will you be the Godfather to my child?” Wow… WOW!… Didn’t work out in the end. We had to let him go. He sucked.
Take some notes from everyone’s favorite boss, Mr. Michael Scott. At the end of the day, the work that you do is just as important as the connections you make. Go out of your way to get to know your co-workers. Ask them how their weekend was, find out how they got started in the company, ask them about their family and kids (please verify that they have children before you go trying this one or it might lead to some awkward conversations). At the end of your internship, your colleagues may not remember the day-to-day tasks you completed, but they will definitely remember that you took the time to ask them how they were doing and really got to know them. These connections will prove invaluable to you in the future, as networking is the number one way to increase your chances of securing your next job or internship.
You may look around, and see two groups here. White collar, blue collar. But I don’t see it that way. You know why not? Because I am collar-blind.
Following that same line of thought, be a positive face in the office regardless of whom you’re interacting with – be it upper management or custodial staff. You want to make sure that any time anyone brings your name up in the office, nothing but great things are said about your positive attitude and willingness to help any staff in need. By interacting positively with everyone in the office (A.K.A. remaining “collar-blind”), you can be certain that the Michael Scott of your office will provide an excellent reference to your next employer.
I’m friends with everybody in this office. We’re all best friends. I love everybody here. But sometimes your best friends start coming into work late and start having dentist appointments that aren’t dentist appointments, and that is when it’s nice to let them know that you could beat them up.
Ok, so chances are your boss won’t try to beat you up. But, Michael’s got a point. Even if your internship has an office culture as casual as Michael’s branch, don’t let your professionalism start to slip. It is important to make the best possible impression throughout your entire internship, because you never know what job opportunities might be around the corner. It is not uncommon for interns to be offered continued internships or job opportunities following their summer internship. But if nothing else, your consistent professionalism will ensure that your boss will have nothing but outstanding things to say about you to your next employer. Also, if you distinguish yourself as a reliable and hard-working intern, your colleagues will be more likely to network with you in the future and to recommend you for relevant positions available. Therefore, on your first day of internship, make sure that you ask your supervisor about proper protocol for calling in sick, emergencies, doctor’s appointments, and lunch breaks. This way, when something unexpected comes up, you’ll already know the best and most professional way to handle the situation with your supervisor.
Right now, this is a job. If I advance any higher, this would be my career. And if this were my career, I’d have to throw myself in front of a train.
A little dramatic? Maybe. But this quote exemplifies why internships are so incredibly valuable. In life, you don’t get many opportunities to try on different career options with minimal commitment, but an internship provides you just that! It lets you try on a career for a few months and decide “Oh my god I’m living the dream!” or “Ok I’d rather jump in front of a train than pursue this any longer.” Make the most of your internship by really immersing yourself in that field and figuring out whether or not it is the right fit for your professional goals. As you’re progressing through your internship, don’t be afraid to ask for work outside of your basic requirements. If there is a project that you’d really like to be a part of, ask! A good supervisor will welcome an intern’s willingness to become more involved in the company and will facilitate this experience. That is the main reason that the Toppel Internship Program requires students to meet with their supervisor at the beginning of their internship and discuss their goals (both personal and professional) for their internship experience. Your internship should give you the opportunity to explore various aspects of a particular field or position so that you can test the waters before you commit to pursuing a career. That way, you won’t end up like Jim – stuck in a mindless career and unhappy.
I’ll use Dwight Shrute to illustrate my final and most important point of all.
Don’t be the creepy guy in the office.
P.S. Unsure of how to search for a summer internship? It’s not too late! Click here to check out Megan’s post and discover where to find your next summer internship.