How to Become a Star Intern

With the right attitude, you can easily make a lasting impression during your internship.
Carmen Teh
Writer, gradsingapore

Stepping into a professional work sphere for the first time, especially as an intern, can be intimidating. When you work alongside co-workers who have had years of professional experience, it’s understandable to feel like you’re at the bottom of the food chain. Don’t stress about it though – we all start somewhere.

While it’s important to be humble and know your place as an intern, it’s equally important to keep your head up. Just because you’re an intern, it doesn’t mean that you can’t work towards surpassing your employers’ expectations of you. It also certainly doesn’t mean you can’t shine as the star intern of the company.

For you to become an intern that everyone fondly remembers, you have to go beyond just clocking in on time or merely performing the routine tasks expected of you by your superiors. You need to go the extra mile to impress your employer and colleagues.

Internships are great opportunities to open the door into the career and industry you want to pursue. You never know, the impression you leave as an intern can get you a recommendation for a permanent position after your internship.

Here are five tips on how you can get noticed for the right reasons.

Be proactive

This is absolutely necessary to show your genuine interest in what you do. Despite being an intern, most employers like staff who bring something new to the table.

Got an interesting idea? Say it. Notice what may be a flaw in a business plan? Voice your opinion, but do so in a constructive manner. Never be afraid to speak up! Volunteer to take on challenges, even if it means extra work or doing something that is out of your comfort zone.

All of these will not only help you get noticed, it’ll also give you the experience of working on higher-level responsibilities. You can use these as examples of when you have been proactive in a work setting which will essentially help you stand in good stead during your future job applications and interviews.

Do take note, however, that this does not mean you need to say something for the sake of having your voice heard. Sometimes, it is better to listen more, absorb what’s being discussed, and learn along the way. When you speak, make sure your content has substance.

Network, network and network

It can be very tempting to stick with your fellow interns or even graduate starters, especially in the beginning of your internship. Resist the temptation!

Take lunchtimes and social events as opportunities to strike up conversations with more senior members and staff, or even your bosses. You may also want to initiate contact with colleagues involved in recruitment to talk about your possible career direction.

Do think long-term. If your conversation with them leaves a good and lasting impression, they will think of you when a job opportunity arises.  

On the other hand, if you’re unsure about how to initiate a conversation with someone with a more senior standing, start with simple and neutral comments. For instance, you may remark on the venue or the weather at a social event. You can also ask how long he or she has been with the company.

However, if you have a burning question and if you feel like it’s a now-or-never moment, go ahead and introduce yourself. Say what you want and ask politely whether if now is a good time, or if it is possible to talk later.

Ask for feedback

You may lose sight of this amidst the tasks you’re assigned to do, but always keep in mind that the purpose of your internship is for you to learn and gain the experience in the field you want to pursue as a career. With that said, it is important for you to evaluate and reflect on your progress.

One way for you to gauge your performance and progression levels is to simply ask for feedback from your superiors. Find the right moment to ask them how you’re doing, and if their response is positive, good for you! If not, take it as constructive criticism and work to improve on the areas in which you fall short.

By expressing interest in your performance, your superiors will be able to see that you genuinely care about what you do. It’ll also show that you’re not there merely to fulfil your curriculum requirement, or to bulk up your CV just for the sake of it.

Get noticed – for the right reasons

You’re working hard, contributing great ideas and always giving a helping hand – but is anyone noticing you? Getting some acknowledgements can let you know if you’re on the right track and even spur you to do better in your internship.

Engage in conversations with your colleagues about what you’re working on. However, be careful not to sound like you’re bragging. Ask them about what they think of your project(s), and if there’s anything you can improve on. Try to find a fair balance between drawing attention to your achievements and showing humility.

Don’t underestimate what this can do. If the person you are sharing details of your achievements to is someone senior, he or she may just relay the information to the recruitment team. Chances are they’ll listen attentively.

Maintain professionalism and a good attitude

As obvious as this may sound, maintaining a level of professionalism is sometimes easier said than done. You may start getting comfortable around your fellow colleagues as well as your workplace, and may sometimes feel less of a need to behave professionally.

Being friendly and comfortable with your colleagues is a-okay. However, do draw a line between how you would normally behave with your friends and how you should behave around people at work. Always respect those around you, and watch your language (even when you’re joking). Using profanities at work is an absolute no-no.

As an intern, you may sometimes be asked to do menial tasks, such as getting coffee or shredding unwanted paper. Understandably, this is not what you want to be doing as an intern, but the last thing you should do is complain about it.

Unless that’s all you do, keep a positive attitude and accept that it is part and parcel of being an intern. Nobody likes an employee who thinks that they’re too good for the job. So, be professional about it and smile!