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How to Make a Splash in Your Summer Internship

April 27, 2020 udpate:  We wanted to share this blog written by 2019 summer intern, Janet Lam, because it reflects what she learned about being effective in a summer internship, and can be useful to anyone embarking on a new professional journey.  We realize that due to COVID-19, many internships will be modified, or cancelled.  But, they will come back, and with the comeback will emerge a stronger, more prepared YOU!  Sincerely, the Supplementally Speaking editorial team.

If you’re polishing your dress shoes—and your resume—for a summer internship, congratulations! You’re about to embark on an adventure that’s guaranteed to make an impact on your career. An internship provides you with meaningful work experience and the opportunity to develop professional skills while taking a test-drive in the “real world.”

At Combined Insurance, we love the opportunity to work with a talented group of people, helping them gain as much real-world experience as they can pack into their summer!

Read on to learn how to create a great first impression and keep it going all summer long.

Practice professionalism

This goes without saying, which is why it’s first on our list. Don’t be surprised if your new office is more conservative than campus with respect to dress code, hairstyles, intra-office communications, socialization during work hours and even noise level. The environment may be a lot less laid back than what you’re used to at school, especially if you’re interning in a traditional corporate setting. Be yourself—let your personality shine—but always be mindful of your company’s culture and do your best to follow the norms.

Challenge yourself

Your professional self is emerging! An internship is a wonderful opportunity to see first-hand how one company works—how business gets done, how coworkers communicate, what makes it “tick.” You’ll learn a lot about the culture and what skills are required to work in different roles. Where do you fit in, today or in the future? Explore what’s interesting to you by taking notes, seeking creative solutions, and talking with your coworkers about their work and what drives them to achieve. You may get some tough projects; others may be more enjoyable. Pay attention to your experiences and listen for what inspires you.

Speak up!

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. You’ve heard of the phrase “there is no such thing as a stupid question” - if you find yourself confused or have an opinion on a matter, speak up! Get your thoughts on the table. It’s always great to be proactive with learning and your team will recognize your effort as well. Some of your coworkers were in your shoes not too long ago, so they understand that you don’t know everything as an intern. The faster you ask for help, the more successful you’ll be. Plus, you’ll be learning from the best resources and will be able to learn from their experiences!

Manage your downtime

You may find yourself finishing tasks quickly or otherwise looking for extra responsibilities to learn more. Take the initiative! Ask your manager and coworkers if they need help with projects—you may be able to perform some research or start on a cool initiative that’s been sitting on a back burner. Not only does this put you in a great light—you’re adding extra value!—but you’re truly making the most out of the experience by going above and beyond what even you expected.

Be open to feedback

Internships offer chances to learn around every corner. Isn’t that why you’re there? You’re taking a step forward into the workforce, practicing what you’ve learned in school and training. And you’re sure to have some hiccups along with the “ahas!” Your manager can help guide you as you apply your new skills to your work—pointing out where you’re doing well and giving suggestions for how to be more effective. Remember that constructive feedback is shared to help improve your performance and build your confidence, so you’re ready for your next step!

Build relationships

You’re going to meet a lot of people at your company who can become great mentors as you get started in—and expand upon—your professional life. Fellow interns make fantastic connections (and friends),but get acquainted with people of different experience levels in your department and across the company. Be sure to network with them on LinkedIn and stay in touch when your internship comes to a close…because you never know what might happen next!