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How To Ace Your Summer Internship With These 8 Etiquette Rules

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If you have secured a summer internship , congratulations! Those positions are very competitive, and they are really a gold star for your college resume. You’re about to gain some valuable knowledge about what it is like to be a working adult and hopefully learn some employable skills in the process.


Your employer for this summer could eventually write you a letter of recommendation or offer you another internship or full-time position in the future. Thus, you want to make a good impression on your employers and supervisors. In order to do so, you need to follow certain rules of etiquette during your internship. These are an absolute must for workplace behavior, and doing these will put you well on your way to having a positive summer internship experience.  



Take Notes

This is where all those years of being forced to take notes in your classes pays off. When your manager is explaining something like an assignment, workplace strategy, or method, write it down. If you’re in a meeting, take notes on what was said. Not only will these be helpful notes that you can refer back to later, but the simple act of taking notes shows your coworkers and bosses that you are seriously trying to learn as much as you can in these few months with the company.


Just like when you take notes in class, you don’t necessarily have to write everything down. Just write down the things that pertain directly to you. For example, if you’re taking notes at a meeting, don’t take notes on a tangential conversation that two random co-workers had. Write down as much as you can about what was discussed about the project you’re working on.



Do Your Homework

The expectation in many companies is that high schoolers don’t know anything and can’t really be put to good use. It is up to you to prove them wrong by walking into the office on the first day of your summer internship with a basic knowledge of what the company and the department you’re working for does. If you show your employers that you have done your research and have a basic understanding of what’s going on, they will not only be impressed, but they may be relieved that they have less to teach you.


You may not be able to find out all of the information about what your department does, but you should at least do some research on common vernacular, strategies, and methods that your department uses. For example, if you know you’re going to be working with Data Analytics, try and figure out some common data analytics terms like bounce rate, impressions, and more. Also, if you’re going to be working in an IT department, brush up on your basic coding skills.


Doing this extra research will make the first week of your summer internship so much easier since you’ll be able to understand what your superiors are talking about when they use heavy jargon.



Take Initiative

Managers love to see interns who are enthusiastic and willing to pitch in wherever they are needed. As a high school intern, you can’t expect that a new project or task will always land in your lap. You need to keep communicating with your managers so that they don’t forget that you’re there. In other words, it’s up to you to take initiative and find a task or learning experience wherever you can.

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It is important to note that, while taking initiative, you should not annoy your bosses. They are very busy people and odds are that they’re not being paid extra to teach you, the summer  intern, how to do things. So make sure that you’re not contacting your bosses multiple times per day, and make sure that you ask for projects in a respectful and polite manner.



Manage Your Expectations

Don’t walk into a high school internship thinking that you’re going to be developing the next groundbreaking product or finding a cure for cancer. For any intern, but especially for high school interns, you should expect a fair amount of busy work and administrative tasks. When you get these tasks, don’t be offended. Take the task, do it well, and try to learn something from these basic tasks.


However, if it’s been a few days or weeks and you haven’t been given any work, you should feel justified in talking to your manager or supervisor about giving you some sort of meaningful project. Until then, just wait and trust that your bosses are either busy or looking for the right task for you.


Manage Their Expectations

Especially in older companies with older employees, there are some nasty misconceptions about the way that Generation Z members behave in the workplace. Similar to the rumors spread about millennials in the workplace, Generation Z interns are presumed to be arrogant, lazy, and entitled. Thus, when you enter this summer internship, you may find some people in your internship that treat you based on that stereotype.


If this happens to you, it is important that you handle it with grace and composure.Take any broad-based accusation as constructive criticism and work actively throughout your summer internship to prove them wrong. If you think that any comments made to you were derogatory or warrants an HR violation, however, report the incident to the HR department immediately.


At the end of the day, remember that if your boss or coworker is making negative assumptions about you based on the stereotypes associated with Generation Z in the workplace, he/she is only doing so because they’ve never worked with someone your age before. Take this as an opportunity to teach your coworkers what people your age are really like with your great work ethic and professional attitude.



Anticipate Needs

A great way to make sure that you are keeping busy during your summer internship is to try and anticipate what tasks and projects the people on your team are going to be working on in the future and offer to take the initiative on it.


For example, if you have been tasked with forming a call list for a company’s sales team, you can offer to write up a guide on best cold calling practices.


Anticipating the needs of the company shows that you have learned the ins and outs of what a company does and can make yourself useful wherever you’re needed. This is a great trait that managers are sure to notice.



Be Attentive

Throughout your time in the office, you never want to look bored or like you’re not paying attention. If you’re in a meeting, be physically and mentally present and speak up every once in a while to show that you’re paying attention.


If you’re doing work at your desk, don’t stop to surf the web or go on social media. While you’re at work, you should only be doing work. You’d be surprised how many bosses will randomly check on their interns without warning to make sure that they’re doing what they are supposed to be doing. If you get caught watching Netflix or checking your Instagram, that may not leave a very good impression.



Be Respectful

Always start out a summer internship assuming that every permanent member of the company is your superior. Eventually, you may learn that the office culture is more casual or you may form a more friendly relationship with your co-workers, but that will come later. When you walk in the door, it’s Ma’am and Sir for everyone.


Also, while you’re at your summer internship, try to defer to the judgement of your co-workers and bosses as much as possible. They’ve been there longer, and they probably know what’s best. If you know for a fact that something they’re doing or saying is wrong, you can speak up about it. Otherwise, try not to argue with the full-time employees and avoid differences in opinion.



For More Information

Need some more help preparing for your stellar summer internship? Check out these previous blog posts:


15 Awesome Internships For High School Students

Tales from the Expert: How to Get That Ultra-Competitive Internship

How to Make Yourself Employable as Early As Possible–And Why It Matters


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Sadhvi Mathur
Senior Blogger

Short Bio
Sadhvi is a recent graduate from the University of California, Berkeley, where she double majored in Economics and Media Studies. Having applied to over 8 universities, each with different application platforms and requirements, she is eager to share her knowledge now that her application process is over. Other than writing, Sadhvi's interests include dancing, playing the piano, and trying not to burn her apartment down when she cooks!