Dear Summer Intern,
By now, you may have found a few gaps between what you are learning in school and what you are doing at your internship. You are not alone. You are lucky if your internship directly relates to university subject matter. As a result, you have some things to learn and your internship is an opportunity to showcase your ability to do so. As two undergraduate students with a total of six internships under our collective belts, we are hoping to provide you with a few tips and tricks —both technical and interpersonal —we wish we knew before we started the summer intern grind.
1. Tired of Powerpoint? (your boss probably is too): Pivot tables & heat maps in excel
At some point during your internship, it is likely that you will have to present some sort of data findings to another person. PowerPoint certainly gets the job done, but heat maps and pivot tables can display data in more effective and original ways.
One of Excel’s most powerful tools (and best kept secret), pivot tables provide an extremely effective way to summarize relationships within data. You choose what cases and attributes you want by dragging and dropping them into rows, columns, or metrics, and the pivot table function does the rest. Next time you want to present multiple relationships within a big dataset, think pivot table.
Heatmaps are another way to make information more presentable. Using conditional formatting to highlight data provides a useful visualization of the data. Instead of a table of numbers, heat maps use color to allow a viewer to more quickly see patterns in data
2. Less is more: Email formatting and tone
As an intern, you don’t have much clout. You may be working directly for a manager but chances are that many of the people that also work under that manager don’t know who you are or why you are spamming their inbox with seemingly unimportant requests. The work you are assigned is important and does warrant timely responses,. although getting a response can be difficult. However, you are still in charge of completing your work on time and that often requires information from others.
We cannot stress the importance of email subject lines. Add a phrase at the beginning of the subject line in capital letters such as “FEEDBACK REQUESTED” or “RESPONSE REQUIRED”, followed by a due date and time, then add the task at hand. An example may look like:
“RESPONSE REQUIRED: Thursday July 27, 3:30pm CST, Add Client Solution Data to Excel sheet attached”
Giving clear and concise information is not bossy or rude. People get busy, often receiving many emails in their inbox each day. Even if they intend to reply to your email, it is very likely it will get lost in the shuffle if there is no due date set or if it is not clear what is needed from them. Don’t be afraid to copy your boss or send follow ups.
3. Account for your time (& pad the resume): Keeping track of your work
In order to keep track of the value you added and the contributions you made at the end of the summer, create an excel sheet and/or a word document where you track the projects you work on, the hours you spend per task, and the outcomes of said projects as well as the people you work with.
This project record will also serve you as you go into recruiting season for another summer internship or full-time job. This report will help you remember and articulate what you did over the summer as you speak to recruiters and other business professionals. Additionally, already having key words written down will be beneficial as you add your summer internship experience to your resume.
4. Be coachable
Securing an internship is a challenge, but it’s only the first step. You were hired because your skills and experience were impressive (or you’re working for your uncle’s company). And even though you had the skills to land the position, once you have the internship, your real job is to learn. Think of yourself as a student trying to soak up as much information about the role, the work, the company, etc. Nobody expects you to be an expert. If and when you mess up, listen to your coworkers’ feedback with an open mind. Maintain a good attitude even if training is getting boring or frustrating. Reach out and ask for more work and embrace your role. Be a coachable intern. Your goal is to learn, not to know it all from the start.
5. Get to know your fellow interns
Who better to get to know than the people who are in your same shoes. More than people to eat lunches with, your fellow interns will be your go-to people. If your headphones are not working, you can’t figure out how to connect to the printer, and you don’t know how to maneuver Microsoft Outlook, it’s better to run it by your intern buds before going straight to the CEO. Not only that, but you are also coming from different backgrounds, colleges, majors, interests, etc., so befriending the interns is an opportunity to share and benefit from a wealth of knowledge.
6. Pack your lunches the night before
This one is crucial! It’s easy to spend a quarter of your summer earnings ordering in hoagies for lunch every day or eating at the company cafeteria. Resist that urge! Save time and money by packing your lunch the night before work.
To sum it up, be creative, direct, and open-minded, pack your lunch, document your work, and become BFFs with the other intern(s). We hope you can use some of these lessons to make your internship experience more worthwhile and successful.
Best of luck!