Do’s and Don’ts for a Successful Summer Internship

It’s summer internship season and a lot of you are pleased as punch to have landed your dream gig. That said, as the days get hotter, and text messages from friends covered in suntan oil grow more insistent, it can be hard to keep your focus. With this in mind, I thought I’d put together a quick list of do’s and don’ts for your referral between now and Labor Day:


  • Greet everyone—from the CEO to the receptionist— formally and daily.
  • Ask questions: Ignorance isn’t stupidity. Stupidity is not asking a question when you don’t know something. If your hearer expresses surprise, don’t apologize. Simply say, “Yes, I don’t know. Can you tell me?”
  • Introduce yourself to/lunch with everyone: Every business is a web, and knowing who has overt–and who has covert– power is not something that’s apparent to the naked eye. Make friends with everyone.
  • Keep busy: Yes, there may be moments when there’s not an immediate task for you. If that’s the case, come up with two suggestions for something you might do and ask your boss which you should tackle first.
  • Sign up for corporate softball/picnics/philanthropic outreach projects. Will this cut into your time with your friends? Yes, of course. Do it anyway. These days people hire based on attitude as much (or more) than skill sets. They want someone who wants to be there.


  • Bring your weekend in with you Monday or be too anxious to skid out the door on Friday: As far as your colleagues are concerned you’ve been nowhere else and there is nowhere else you’d rather be.
  • Dress down on Fridays if your boss doesn’t. That’s the team you’re on—not Team Intern.
  • “Play Mom against Dad”: If you’re told to do something you don’t want to do, don’t try to find someone else to tell you differently. Get it done. Move on.
  • Think you aren’t presenting just because you aren’t speaking. Do NOT take out your PDA in meetings. You can look at whoever is speaking like you’re on a (great) first date. You can look at your boss. You can take notes. That’s it.
  • Gossip/Over-share: People who participate in gossip and/or are quick to pile on with a story from last Saturday night aren’t ready for a leadership position. People may laugh, but they notice. Don’t do it.

Summer seems short, but it’s ninety days— a marathon, not a sprint. You don’t want to start strong, only to fade away;  nor do you want to be scrambling to undo a bad first impression in the dog days of August. Consistency is key.

And—as always—let me know how it goes.