Once you manage to secure that all important work placement or internship, it’s time to start working away at shedding the tag of ‘just the intern’. While it’s no longer true that most companies treat the intern like a glorified tea and coffee server, it is important to stand out from the crowd if you want to be asked back for one of their graduate jobs.
Here’s our rundown of the best ways to make sure that you get noticed, and for all the right reasons.
Do your research
As with any job, the best way of impressing your new boss is to make sure that you do your research on the company. Not only will this make you look invested and prepared if you’re asked about the company, it will also help you to understand what sort of culture to expect and allow you to adjust accordingly.
Check out the company’s website, blog or social media to get a good idea of the services or products they offer and how they do it. Social media is a great avenue for understanding a company’s culture and whether to expect a more corporate environment or a more relaxed office space. This way you can get a better idea of how you’ll be expected to communicate and work with your colleagues and senior management.
If you can find any recent news features on the company, even better. These will give a genuine idea of what life can be like working there, or will detail the image that the company is interested in projecting. Either way you will have learnt something valuable.
Be realistic and organised with your deadlines
Being an intern is about being proactive and saying yes. At the same time, be aware of putting too much on your plate. This isn’t about turning down opportunities or duties. It is about setting expectations, making people aware of your other tasks and asking your manager’s advice on what to prioritise. This way you’ll demonstrate that you’re capable of managing your time, you’re not afraid to be realistic and to take charge of your workload.
More importantly, you’re much less likely to drop the ball or let people down by missing deadlines or forgetting about work.
Offer something new
The best way to stand out as more than ‘just the intern’ is to make yourself indispensable to your new company. Offer to fill a skills void that they’re struggling with. This could be anything from the important hard skills like being able to speak a foreign language or particular IT expertise, to being known for sharing great industry articles or knowing all about the best restaurants in the area. Once you become the go-to-guy or gal for something, it’ll make the prospect of you leaving much more difficult for a company to bear.
Consider how you introduce yourself
One of the most important ways of handling how you are perceived is about how you introduce yourself both internally and externally. If you’re constantly playing down your role as an intern, people will often unfairly presume you’ll be unable to help them. They may ask to be passed up the food chain, making it harder for you to impress.
It’s not about lying or artificially inflating your position, but about telling the truth in a different way. Explain that you’re ‘working with the sales team’ or ‘a part of the marketing team’ and you’ll find that you’re more able to wield influence.
Find out colleagues’ interests
And keep up to date with them! A great way to establish yourself with your new colleagues is to take a keen interest in what they care about. Make it another reason for people to miss you when your internship period is up. Whether you’re the one who can be relied on for the latest on sports, gossip, or the latest music and film, it probably won’t be a deal breaker. When you’re trying to stick your head above the parapet it is all about these sorts of marginal gains.
Keep track of your wins
Any business will be interested in the way that you added value – whether it’s tasks that you’ve specifically actioned or accomplishments as part of a team. If companies are looking to hire a graduate, they want to see a return on investment. The better you can demonstrate this, the higher chance you have of standing out from being just another intern. By making sure you keep track of all of your successes you’ll have all the data to back it up.
Don’t turn down networking opportunities
Even if networking or internal social events are not your strong suit, it’s time to pull your socks up and get stuck in. They can be a great way of meeting people from across the company that you might not otherwise meet, including senior management.
It can be a great way of getting advice and impressing people who may have a say in whether you stay. Meeting a cross-section of the company is important. What could make you stand out is the wide range of voices from receptionists and security guards right up to senior management calling for you to stay.
Ask someone you admire out for lunch
Standing out from the crowd of interns is often about being as proactive as possible. Ask for that mid-term review, meet as many people as possible, and even consider asking someone senior out for lunch. If you present it as an opportunity to pick their brains, many managers will be flattered and happy to offer advice. It will earmark you as proactive about both your own career and the best way of benefiting the company.
Most importantly it’s a great opportunity to get specific internal advice about how to stand out as more than ‘just the intern’.
Matt Arnerich works as a content writer for Inspiring Interns, the UK’s leading graduate jobs and internships provider. Check out their job listings for graduate jobs in Manchester, or take a look at their blog for more graduate careers advice.