Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Who's who at an internship

It can be really difficult to start a new job, especially an internship where you know that you will be relying on the good opinions of others to get recommendations or job offers.

Of course different organizations will have different people and different organizations of power. But this is a good rundown of who you'll probably meet at a your internship.

Read more to find out Who's Who at an internship and a few hints about who you are!

Intern supervisor

You've probably already had plenty of contact with this person in the process of getting your internship. The intern supervisor most likely is in charge of all of the interns in different departments.  This is the person that you should touch in with periodically; most likely they'll be the one that schedules your meetings and trainings. If your supervisor has any problems with you... well, the intern supervisor knows. And lets you know too.

The intern supervisor is also generally the person you go to if you are having any difficulties. If your access badge hasn't come or your supervisor is asking you to work 50 hours a week, you should talk to the intern supervisor about finding a solution. They serve as a good mediator between you and the larger company, making sure you get proper respect and treatment. The intern supervisor will also have final say over your recommendations and your review.

Direct supervisor

Your direct supervisor is whoever is in charge of the office you are in. This supervisor is the person who directly assigns you tasks. Some supervisors are happy to have interns and will truly take you under their wing. Others will see you as an imposition and do their best to ignore you, despite your desire to work. Still others will simply see you as another pair of hands and give you a never ending line up of dull tasks.

You don't have much control over how your supervisor decides to treat you. You do have control over how you react. Always be polite and professional. Do your best to ask for challenging work; when you complete a task, check with the supervisor that it has been done properly and ask for more work. If you are curious about something, take initiative to research it and then ask if that information is correct.Your direct supervisor will hopefully see your motivation and creativity as an addition to the office and take advantage of it.

Obviously, your direct supervisor is important: they are going to be the one giving you referrals and having a large say in the decision of whether to offer you an opportunity to return. Try to impress them by working hard and working smart! If you'll lucky, your supervisor will appreciate your dedication, fostering a great relationship.


You may have a closer relationship with others in your office. Having a coworker who has taken you under your wing or who you can consistently turn to for assignments can be a really great thing. I find that other coworkers who still remember what it's like to be an intern can offer a great working relationship. If you have questions about office politics or how to relate to your supervisor, your coworkers can be a good resource for such questions.

Do remember: Coworkers are still above you! Don't get too friendly with them or forget their place above you!

Also remember that coworkers have more loyalty to their supervisor than to you. If you choose to gossip about your boss to them, don't be surprise if that gets back to your boss. Offices are small places, made smaller when people get too cozy with one another. It's not bad to make friendships, but remember to respect the workers who are above you.

Fellow interns

I think that maybe the best thing about an internship is meeting other people. Your fellow interns are also at college, with an interest in same career field as you but they have a totally different perspective to offer you. Talking to fellow interns can give you a sense of what the field you're in is like, the personality of your future coworkers, and even inspire some pretty amazing goals for once you head back in the fall.

Being open and respectful to your fellow interns is the best thing you can do. Do your best to avoid competitive comparisons and instead focus on the common ground. If you're all in an unpaid internship, focus on exchanging tips for cheap lunch vendors or easy tutoring gigs rather than competing to see who has the best or worse living condition. Just being pleasant and constructive can go a long way.

After the internship is over, see if you can meet up with or at least email a few of the interns that you connected with. Ask them if they're doing alright, when they're moving back to campus or what they though of the internship. If you feel an honest connection, such an outreach could start a valuable friendship.

Volunteers or customers

On the offhand chance that your work will have you dealing with volunteers or customers, remember to be kind and generous with them. Be as helpful and respectful as possible to everyone, no matter how inane (or insane) they may seem. If they are a regular of the program, their input may be very important. Comments from customers or those who volunteer can mean a lot to a small organization- so a compliment for you from someone may be very valuable.

You may rank slightly above volunteers or be trusted to supervise them. But remember: you can get fired. A volunteer can't. So really, who's in a position of power? If you are put in charge of volunteers, try to be as polite and respectful as possible. And don't delegate everything to them.  Everything they do, you should do too and work twice as hard at it.

Who's Who and Who are you?

You are who you are. You are a hard working and motivated person- so show that off! Work hard while you have the opportunity. If you have a brilliant idea, work to make that idea have an impression on your company. Be the best that you can be and the world will take notice.

One thing that I would say: I know that a lot of people seem to think that networking is the end all be all. There's this image of networking as the ability to effortlessly charm hundreds of people and inquire on the intimate details of someone's life that you've gleaned from an office party. But that's really not how things work in an office. Networking is about the daily encounters: asking someone if they're alright when they're having a bad day or making the effort to offer to help with something when someone seems particularly stressed along with doing your work as well as you can.