Take Yourself Seriously

Posted on Tuesday, Jul 03, 2018

As an intern, it is easy to accept the notion that you have an insignificant position in your host office. Stories of coffee runs and menial tasks plague intern circles, sometimes comparing who has more down time and which office is more creative in filling it. It doesn’t have to be this way; even if your boss has never had an intern and is at an utter loss for assignments, there is work to be done. Temporary is not synonymous for unimportant. Your attitude, your work ethic, and your fresh perspective have so much to offer the office. So, if your boss is too busy, too stressed, or too overwhelmed to identify appropriate tasks for you to contribute to, here are a few tips to making the most out of your summer internship:
  • Dress the part, including attitude: Let people wonder if you’re a new employee, not an intern. It doesn’t have to be obvious that you’re an intern if you dress professionally and act like you belong there. Understand your situation but be confident enough to speak up. Dress the part and speak it as well, drop the filler words and use concise language and your coworkers will take notice.   
  • Listen and take notes: You should never be without a notepad. You never know when someone will say something important and taking notes on your phone does not come across as professional or respectful. As an intern, listening should play a larger role than talking.
  • Follow up: Follow up with people that you meet in passing or in professional settings. Be the person that attaches a note to the LinkedIn invite. Follow up on comments that people make in meetings and demonstrate your attention to detail and your interest in their work.
  • Take initiative: Once you’ve listened and identified the needs of your office, take initiative in meeting them. You don’t have to wait to be assigned a task by a supervisor. If someone mentioned they needed a hand or an idea, seek them out with your thoughts already organized. Those efforts do not go unnoticed.
  • Finally, serve joyfully: No task is too small or too complex; everything is a learning opportunity or a chance to serve the organization. Enthusiastically accept every task offered, even if it is grabbing a coffee, because meeting the needs of one of your coworkers is serving the organization. Be joyful even if a task seems daunting, go forward with the confidence in your ability to ask the right questions and live up to the responsibility given to you. Attitude may take precedence over competency, so have a good one. 
Be openminded. Be positive. Decide to make something incredible out of your internship instead of waiting for someone else to do it for you. What’s your next step?

Kelli Meyer
United States Agency for International Development
Washington, D.C. | summer 2018