The Intern Guide: How to be an Unforgettable Intern

If you are a young hopeful nearing the end of your degree and are keen to leave your mark on the world, or simply just want to land a job in a dying industry to pay off your insurmountable university debt, you’re certainly not alone. Whether you’re seeking an internship as a core university requirement or would like to get some industry experience under your belt, there’s a few simple things to be mindful of when wanting to make a positive and lasting impression on prospective employers – and believe me, it’s nothing mind blowing!

As a former MyWork intern and current MyWork Digital Marketing Strategist/ Intern Coordinator, I’ve come to understand what distinguishes the good interns from the great ones. Having started from the bottom, I’ve got a few pearls of wisdom to help any young hopefuls looking to be an unforgettable intern. First and foremost, regardless of whether you’re an intern or an employee, there are three fundamental qualities that will separate the leaders from the followers, and I strongly suggest you work on these if you are wanting to stand out from the crowd:

  1. Integrity
  2. Intelligence
  3. Energy

To find employees who are trustworthy and honest in their work is essential in the workplace, along with being able to deal with clients and employees. Intelligence proves that you have the ability to problem solve and work autonomously, and energy is what fuels your eagerness to perform, learn and grow. Without these three qualities, you’re likely to be just another daisy in a field.

Where to start:

Believe it or not, your prospective employer has already formed an opinion on you before you’ve met face-to-face. How? Your cover letter and resume. So, make sure you proof read it. Check it once, check it twice, in fact, check it until the words start to look like gibberish and no longer have meaning. I cannot stress this enough. Regardless of whether you’re an Architect or a Journalist, put a little extra love and care into writing and proofing your resume because it will become the basis for assessing your suitability to the role and company culture, from an employer’s perspective. If you want to get your foot in the door, you’ve got to ‘wow’ prospective employers with a killer resume. Here’s a few tips for writing a captivating cover letter and resume that I’ve learnt along the way (i.e. 5 minutes ago when I searched it on Pinterest):

  1. Get your cover letter structure right. Structure is everything when it comes to writing a cover letter that employees will ACTUALLY read. Here’s a safe and effective way to structure it:
    1. First paragraph: Write a short paragraph introducing yourself, your qualifications and experience.
    2. Second paragraph: write a longer paragraph about why you want this job and why you want to work for this company. All employers want to know what makes the job particularly desirable to candidates, so be sure to address this. The more in-depth and detailed the paragraph, the more impressed the employer will be by your efforts to extensively research the company. This section is largely about explaining to the employer why you will benefit from the job, and how the job and company will benefit from having you on the team.
    3. Third paragraph: write an even longer paragraph on what makes you a good candidate. This is your chance to sell the prospective employer on your skill set and company knowledge. Remember to find the right balance between selling yourself, while still remaining modest and humble. When it comes to cover letter writing, the old saying “show, don’t tell” goes a long way. Much like every other candidate, we know you’re likely to have years’ worth of studying and experience under your belt, but try to refrain from merely listing your accomplishments. Instead, tailor this part of your cover letter to explain how your accomplishments and skill set are particularly useful for the role on offer, while simultaneously acknowledging the intricacies of the job position. This is a great way to give detailed examples of your achievements from past employment.
    4. Fourth paragraph: Summarise and bring it home. Re-cap the main points, revisit your qualifications and why you’re the best possible candidate for the position. Make mention of your references and eagerness to discuss the job in further detail. Be sure to thank the relevant people for considering you for the role.
  2. Focus on the important things. Keep it simple and stick to the important things. No one really cares where you went to primary school or wants to read your entire employment history. Make sure you include only the details that are relevant to the position and are likely to impress the prospective employer.
  3. Address your resume to the relevant people. Be sure to do your research so you know who you’re targeting it at. Also, don’t forget to include job titles and descriptions. Nothing is less captivating than the opening line “to whom this may concern.” Take the two seconds required to find a contact name on the company website or alternatively call the office to ask. Why? It shows your interest in the role, gets your name on the map faster AND it shows you’re willing to go above and beyond 90% of applicants.
  4. Be specific and succinct. The cover letter is for explaining your knowledge of the company and your suitability for the role. Your resume is about clearly and succinctly outlining your achievements, qualifications and relevant former work experience.
  5. Contact your referees. Be sure to give your referees a courtesy call to let them know they’re likely to be contacted in the near future. There’s nothing more unprofessional than a confused referee who’s been caught off guard and hasn’t had time to prepare a spiel.
  6. Make sure all formatting is consistent. Keep the font, text size and general layout consistent throughout your resume. If your resume looks messy, it will act only as a distraction and may hinder your chances of getting the job/internship.
  7. Don’t forget to proofread. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again – Check yoself! Ask a friend or family member to proofread the content and give you any feedback based on the visual appeal also.

What to do:

Once you’ve managed to ‘WOW’ the team with your impressive resume, the hard work begins. Just remember, you’ll get out of the internship as much as you’re willing to put into it. If you’re simply wanting to get it over and done with as a core university requirement so you’re eligible to graduate, that’s fine, but don’t expect a job or glowing review. One of my favourite quotes of all time is from Oscar Wilde’s 1891 essay, ‘The Soul of Man under Socialism’ – “To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”

While slightly off topic, you can apply this philosophy to many areas of life, including an internship. You have two options: You can choose to glide through your internship relatively unnoticed or you can make the most of it by asking questions, seeking feedback, gaining real world experience and adding valuable contacts to your contact list and referees to your resume. As a past-intern and current intern co-ordinator, I can confidently tell you that the students who truly leave a lasting impression, are the ones who do the following:

  • Arrive on time
  • Ask questions
  • Seek feedback
  • Request more work
  • Speak up about any issues they’re having
  • Make an effort to get to know employees
  • Keep in touch (even once the internship’s come to an end)
  • Good organisational skills & time management. I’m quite literally the last person who should be offering advice on this point, as this blog post is six weeks overdue. However, you can learn from my mistakes. Always come prepared and take the time to organise your tasks at the beginning of each day.
  • As an additional tip that will come in useful prior to applying for an internship and/or job: make sure your social media profiles are CLEAN. Regardless of the industry, almost every employer will stalk you on social media. What you do in your spare time isn’t your employers business, so be sure to keep your privacy settings as secure as Fort Knox.

What not to do:

An internship is the easiest way of dipping your toes into your chosen industry, to work out what you love doing and what you really dislike doing. While most students are keen to get it over and done with, it’s important to make the most of an internship and to be truly present during your time as an intern. Whether you’re hoping to get a job out of the internship or simply want to leave a positive impression, here’s what I’d strongly recommend you NOT to do while interning:

  • Don’t be on your phone all day
  • Stay off social media while at your internship
  • Don’t sit there and do nothing once you’ve completed all set tasks for the day. Show initiative and be proactive – Ask your supervisor for more work or offer a few suggestions of your own!
  • Don’t show up with a negative attitude or lack of enthusiasm. Attitude is everything and it will let people know a lot about you, good and bad.
  • If you don’t understand a task, don’t sit there silently and assume you know what to do. Speak up and ask questions. We feel satisfied and accomplished when you do. We want to know you’re taking away invaluable knowledge and information.
  • Don’t be afraid to pitch an idea. Just because you’re an intern, it doesn’t mean your opinion doesn’t matter. In fact, sometimes a fresh set of eyes and a new perspective is perfect for offering new ideas and recommending beneficial changes.
  • Don’t be hard on yourself if you receive negative feedback. Show up to the internship with a willingness to learn and be open to constructive criticism. No matter your age or level of experience or expertise, everyone will receive constructive criticism. Learning how to take it on board is what differentiates the followers from the leaders.

Nothing mind blowing, right? While the majority of the points I mentioned are common sense, we all need reminding from time to time. The most important thing to take away from this blog is the importance of challenging yourself and showing up with the mindset that you’re going to get as much out of the internship as what you’re willing to contribute. Just remember, the price of success is hard work, dedication to the job, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.

To find out more about MyWork’s internship program, please get in contact with us today on 1300 809 424 or simply email [email protected] to express your interest.