CampusChat Guest Mark Babbitt Responds to U.S. News: “10 Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Internship”

Originally published on April 5, 2011
by Mark Babbitt, CEO of YouTern

U.S. News: “10 Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Internship”

Get the most out of your internship, SmartCollegeVisit recently posted a good slideshow titled, “10 Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Internship.”

In the article, the ten tips described are:

  1. Know what to expect
  2. Gain trust early on
  3. Pay attention to the office culture
  4. Focus
  5. Take your work seriously
  6. Ask for feedback
  7. Learn from your co-workers
  8. Dress
  9. Ask for advice
  10. Say “thank you”

A good list to be sure – to which we encourage interns and internship candidates to consider:

  • Seek and develop a mentor relationship (highly critical in today’s competitive job market)
  • Network, during and after the internship (great way to increase your sphere of influence)
  • Keep your career in mind (consistently think about how your work affects your future)

And, there is one segment – “gain trust early on” didn’t make so much sense on paper – with which we would disagree. Not the “gain trust” part, of course. But the fact that the author’s point is built upon excelling at “boring tasks” and “being good at photocopying.”

I believe Green was actually talking about being diligent and displaying a strong work ethic – even when completing the “go-fer” duties that often come with more traditional internships. However, we would offer a slightly different perspective…

Consider accepting an internship where no more than 10% (maybe 20%) of your work consists of “menial” tasks. In a start-up or small business environment, and certainly in a change-oriented nonprofit, you’ll be expected to contribute right away – rather than be the office “go-fer” who answers to “you there” or “hey, intern!” In fact, there’s a good chance you’ll be so busy with core assignments there won’t be time for menial tasks.

Of course, even in small-team environments, you’ll occasionally be asked to perform non-glamorous duties such as taking the garbage out or, yes, even making a pot of coffee. But chances are those tasks will be done under the “we all wear many hats” umbrella – and you’re just as likely to see the CEO and founders performing those same tasks.

By all means – perform every task, no matter how menial, with a good work ethic and attitude. Just as important, consider putting yourself in a position where you’re not asked to complete those tasks more than your core responsibilities – and what you signed on to learn.

To both interns and their employer-mentors, we suggest the 70-20-10 intern rule:

  • 70% of the your time should be spent on the tasks discussed during your interview – tasks that directly support your career goals
  • 20% of your time will undoubtedly be spent on spontaneous tasks to support the overall mission of your team and the immediate needs of the company
  • 10% will be spent on being a good citizen and co-worker – and in a small-team environment this does occasionally mean copies, coffee and go-fer tasks

Thank you, Green, for a great article… and for inspiring us to continue the discussion of “Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Internship.”

This post by YouTern CEO Mark Babbitt  originally appeared on Classroom to Cubicle and the YouTern blog: The Savvy Intern. Mark will be the co-host of #CampusChat on Twitter, Wednesday night at 9PM, Eastern.