How to Succeed as a College Intern at a Tech Company

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For many college students, the question is no longer, “Should I intern?” but instead, “How can my internship be a success?” As this summer comes to an end, I’d like to share what I learned makes for a successful internship while interning for Tango Card, a small tech company located in West Seattle.

In order to highlight ways to make an internship successful, I must first tell you what I believe a successful internship is. To me, success in an internship is defined by how much you learn from the experience. An internship should allow you to grow your knowledge in your field of interest.

10 Tips for Internship Success

Know why you’re there. In high school my friends and I often used a very exquisite saying, “You gotta do you, cause if you aint doing you than who are you doing?” What I’m trying to say is, choose an internship that relates to your passions. Know what you want to get out an internship and why it appeals to you. You’ll probably be asked these questions, and you should have answers. Are you doing something that reflects what you’re interested in and your possible career path? If you don’t have answers and can’t come up with them, why are you spending your summer there anyway? Showing up to an office every day with the opportunity to learn more about your future career is awesome. Having to show up to an office every day and do something you’re not passionate about… not so awesome.

Listen. Listen more. Listen on the first day. Listen for the first week. Listen for months on end. When people are talking to you or around you, listen. It will help you with every aspect of your internship. You’ll learn what’s important to the business, how people talk about different products and services, what people you should or should not joke around with and more.

Do your own research. Tech companies throw around a lot of lingo that legitimately doesn’t make any sense to the average human being. Different companies also have terms that they created specifically for their programs and services. Search the web, read articles, and ask questions. Don’t let the summer go by and still think that a Saas company is just a company that’s very sassy.

Ask questions. Just like doing your own research, you should also not be afraid to ask questions. When you ask questions people get a chance to display their knowledge, which everyone secretly loves, and you get a chance to display your kick-ass desire to learn and reach the next level. People like to see that they aren’t going to have to force you to learn and do more.

Blaze your own trail. Some internships will give you a lot of say in what you’re doing. Volunteer yourself to learn about what you’re interested in! If you share your interests, you can help make sure you get the most out of your internship.

Participate and speak up. Odds are you are qualified to say something about the company you’re working for, especially after a couple weeks of work. Making a suggestion on a topic being discussed is okay! When people have been working at a company for a long time they become immune to noticing some areas where their company is lacking. Your fresh eyes can spot things that should or could be updated! At my first internship ever, I made a small suggestion that turned into a new social media campaign. Don’t be afraid to speak up, and also don’t be afraid to get shut down. You’re the intern; you aren’t expected to be the mastermind.

Don’t shortcut explaining the company to others. If you’re working for a start-up or a company that is less well known, explaining the answer to, “What are you up to this summer?” is going to be a little long-winded. When you’re asked this a couple times a week by old high school friends and neighborhood parents it’s going to feel repetitive, but don’t shortcut your answer. As silly as it seems explaining this to someone who likely will forget about it soon, you’re giving yourself experience speaking professionally and clearly about a company. Your gradual perfection of your tech company and internship description will come in handy during future interviews.

Know who you’re talking to. Start all your conversations and relationships weighing towards the professional side, but then feel free to joke with people who like joking and stay very professional with those who act very professionally. If you’re around people your age, feel free to act your age. Yes, you should maintain a focus on doing your job, but also make friendships that will last longer than this summer with people who have job interests similar to yours. Build a network that doesn’t just exist on LinkedIn—have actual relationships. Those will get you somewhere.

Be timely, but take your time. It probably shouldn’t take you two days to complete your task of reading an article about a competitor and giving feedback, but it also shouldn’t take you 5 minutes from when you receive an email about it. Do your work well and double check it before you send it or post it anywhere people can see.

Be grateful/Have a good attitude. The truth is people probably won’t remember a lot of the work you do in your couple month stay, but people usually remember someone’s attitude. If you show up every day with a smile on your face you’ll likely get a pretty good letter of recommendation and you’ll make some friends along the way.

What do you think makes for a successful internship?

By Mickey Greenburg, Marketing Intern

Photograph by University of Denver on Flickr.

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