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4 Things Interns Can Do to be Taken Seriously in the Workplace

How can interns gain respect in the workplace? Show them what you’re made of with these tips

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BY Cristina Morales - 26 Apr 2017


PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

So you’ve landed yourself an internship—a great way to get experience, connections, and possibly even a job. This may be the lowest rung of the corporate ladder, but don’t fall into the trap of treating it lightly because it’s “just” an internship. Show that you’re dependable, consistent, and professional by doing the work and delivering, and your hard work will reward you in more ways than one.

Here are four ways to gain respect in the workplace and make the most of your intership:


1. Know thyself

Though you may not have years of experience under your belt, you should be aware of what you can bring to the table. Ideally, you would have put a lot of thought into the workplace you chose to intern in, and what kind of experience you want to get out of your internship.

“Just like any job, a good scoping session to communicate the expectations of both sides is important. Doing a self-assessment of your strengths would be a good way to prepare,” says Diane Estaquio, executive director of IdeaSpace Foundation. “If an intern knows how he/she can make a contribution, that helps us with scoping.”


2. Stay enthusiastic

When, after several self-assessments and navel-gazing sessions, you still haven’t figured out what skills you can offer, just bring your can-do attitude to the table. “Interns haven’t been through years of grind that the rest of the team have been through, so they’re fresh,” says LaunchPad CEO Asim Qureshi. “To win respect, an intern needs to bring an energy level and enthusiasm that lifts the entire office. Interns rarely have skills to offer—a great attitude and vibe is what they can bring to the table.”

This sentiment is echoed in this article by Candice Galek, CEO of Bikini Luxe. “Having a fresh pair of eyes is always beneficial to a company,” she writes. “Unlike older workers, who might be satisfied with the status quo, interns will bring in fresh views, fresh energy and often have new ideas and methods to introduce to a company. They are also familiar with new technology that they have just learned in school.”


3. Step up

Let’s face it—not all internship programs are created equal. While some supervisors would take the time to find enough tasks to keep their interns busy for most of—if not the entire--day, others take a more laissez-faire approach, pretty much leaving interns to fend for themselves. Sure, you could spend this time twiddling your thumbs or scrolling through your social media feeds, but you’d be wasting the opportunity to show your supervisor what you’re capable of.

If you haven’t got anything on your plate, simply ask around to see how you could help—even if it’s just organizing that forgotten stack of files in the corner. Attending to a task that no one else on the team has the time to do will be much appreciated, plus, it demonstrates your proactivity and desire to contribute.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that menial tasks are beneath you. Show that you can do these small things well so that your supervisors will be more confident giving you more challenging tasks.


4. Ask for help

While a challenge is a good way to test and broaden your capabilities, it’s important to admit when you think you’ve bitten off more than you can chew. “Be honest when the job you are given is overwhelming,” says Estaquio. “If you’re stuck, just ask for help!”

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