How to impress as an intern

So you've managed to secure yourself an internship with a top company but what can you do to really impress during your time there? PR & Social Media Consultant, Ishbel Macleod, explains what companies look for.

So, you’re looking at a job advert. The first line reads ‘Graduate job’. You’re a graduate – excellent start. Second line: ‘experience necessary’. Aaaand so it begins.

With so many people coming out of colleges and universities across the UK nowadays, there’s a growing trend in the job market for ‘real-world’ experience, which can lead to a real chicken-egg situation.

This isn’t just the case in the digital sector: I know a nursery nurse who, despite two years of training, didn’t change a nappy on a ‘real’ baby until after she had graduated – and as is usually the case, changing nappies on a doll is so very different from a wriggling, pooping machine.

So – you’ve rolled up your sleeves, emailed or phoned a dozen people and now have an internship lined up. This could be a day a week for a semester, a week during your holidays, or even longer.

But it’s not just being there that’s important – you need to make a good impression. Here are five things that all interns should do to stand out during their experience.

1. Come prepared

Okay, no company is expecting you to arrive with a fifty page business plan…but at a minimum, have a look at the website and have a nosey into the company’s background.

If it IS an agency you’re going to be at, bonus points for being able to name some of the clients or – even better – work done for those clients.

It’s also worth having a quick Google to see if you can find out what the boss (and the people you’re going to work with) look like: LinkedIn is great for this and can stop awkward moments!

2. Don’t just sit there

In most cases, the people you’re working for will have a few tasks set aside for you to do…so make sure you give them your best shot.

We’ll not have given you something to do if we think it’s too difficult, but if for any reason you are having issues, or you’ve finished the work, let us know (and send on the work).

Not got something to do? Let us know.

For some reason we don’t have anything to give you at that moment? Be pro-active: now is the time to show off your skills. Anything from a tea run to a draft piece of content will make you a star in our eyes.

Before you leave in the evening, ask if there is anything you can do to before you go. Even if there isn’t anything, you’ll have our seal of approval for asking.

3. Ask questions

Sometimes we may look busy, but please remember – we’ll always have time for you and your questions.

You’re here to learn and we’re here to help, so if you have any issues with a task we’ve asked of you, please just ask – especially if not doing so stops you from being able to do your work. It may seem like a silly question to you, but please don’t panic. We’ve all been in your shoes and we’ll do whatever we can to help.

But don’t feel like you can only ask about what YOU’RE doing: feel free to ask what other members of the team are up to, how they got into the industry and any advice.

4. Show your personality

It’s natural to feel nervous about an internship, like it’s an extra-long job interview (sometimes it actually can be – we’ve hired several people after successful internships).

But here’s the thing. You’re a person. We’re people too. And we like to chat. So while we don’t want NSFW stories, we would like to meet the real you.

Random banter is a big part of agency life, and if you get involved, it will make you feel like more of the team.

5. End on a high

Ask if you can have half an hour with the team manager, or whoever you were reporting to, to discuss your performance.

They’ll be able to tell you what you’ve done well, and what you can work on, to help you in the future. If you’ve enjoyed the experience, also make it known you’d like to keep in touch – you never know what opportunities are around the corner.

Oh, and a box of chocolates or a card to thank the team for your internship is always nice – but not a necessity. However, we do like chocolate.

By Ishbel MacLeod, PR & Social Media Consultant