10 Ways to Take Initiative at Your Internship

It has been just over a month and a half since school finished, which means that many of us are in the middle of our summer internships. The preliminary obstacles of understanding your responsibilities, recognizing all the acronyms and learning when it is acceptable to leave on Friday have been figured out. Now that you have gotten settled in, it is the perfect time to step up your performance and take more initiative. Don’t wait until the end of the summer to show your employer the superstar you are! Consider these simple tips that can elevate your intern game. Whether you are looking for experience, a good reference letter or a return offer we hope these ideas help you!

  1. Go the extra mile.

As an intern, it can be difficult to go above and beyond because you lack the expertise and knowledge of your full-time colleagues. However, focus on how you can excel at tasks that are within your capabilities. It can be as simple as finishing work efficiently, before deadlines or volunteering to take on additional work!

Additionally, understand how your project contributes to the bigger picture. Taking the time to understand the objectives of the project signals to your manager that you are committed to positively impacting the team. Your willingness to do what needs to be done will demonstrate  that you are a true team player.  

  1. Fake it ‘til you make it.

Summer internships are often the best place to gain an abundance of knowledge that you may not receive in the classroom. However, stepping out of your comfort zone can be intimidating. Acting confident in your ideas and contributions will translate into genuine confidence in your work. Confidence will shine through to your superiors as a signal of your ability to take on responsibility and put your best foot forward.

  1. Speak up!

To really stand out, ask questions that help you better understand the strategy and logic behind decisions that are being made. Make sure to keep the tone of your questions curious and knowledge seeking, so you receive answers that are constructive and informative.

Lastly, if you have questions, do some research before diving into them with upper management. They will appreciate the fact that you have taken the initiative to utilize your resources to find answers before reaching out.

  1. Use your student status to your advantage. 

The best part about being the youngest member of the team is that you bring a completely new and fresh perspective to the table. As a student, you bring value to your team because of the ease at which you understand and accept the agile nature of technology today. Use your tech-savvy skills to your advantage. Take it straight from the top: Dave McKay, the CEO of the Royal Bank of Canada, strongly believes that students are the face of the future. He says that “Young people – Canada’s future – have the confidence, optimism and inspiration to reimagine the way our country works” (RBC, 2017).

  1. Network!

Network with new colleagues and be professional. It seems simple, but a willingness to establish relationships can go a long way. Not only will building connections help you stand out in your internship, but you never know who may open the door to another opportunity you are dying to get your hands on!

  1. Feedback, feedback, feedback!

Don’t wait for the end of the summer for feedback. Make the focus of your summer continuous self-improvement. Asking for feedback, instead of waiting for it, indicates great initiative.

Make sure you really listen to what your superiors and colleagues have said, ask questions for clarity if required and act on the comments you have received. Try not to repeat past mistakes!

  1. Set goals.

Create a set of goals for yourself. What would you like to accomplish? What tangible skills do you want to have at the end of the summer? Ask your manager if you can meet with them to talk about your goals for the summer and find out how you can achieve them together.  

  1. Pedal to the Metal!

It is easy to say that you have a strong work ethic, but walk that walk and show your employer that you do not mind working hard to meet deadlines!

  1. Job shadow.

Explore the possibility of job shadowing a position in another department for an afternoon. Job shadowing is a great way to expose yourself to new areas of interest!

  1. Get involved!

Look to see if there are any extra-curricular activities you can get involved in! Some companies have enough summer students that you can take a leadership position and be on committees to organize events and activities. If you are not interested in a committee, consider volunteering or joining a club within the company; it’s a great way to network with people in different departments. Taking the initiative to make the most out of your employment through your responsibilities and extra-curriculars will most definitely impress your manager during the summer and well beyond it!

Megan Latham is a third year commerce student at Smith School of Business and this year’s Content Manager for the Queen’s Marketing Association. Megan has a passion for influential marketing and women’s rights. When she’s not searching up new content for The Nucleus, you can find her with her nose in a book!