How To Be a Great Intern (Part Two)

Yesterday, I started a two-part series on how to be a great intern. I hope it’s helpful enough to pass along to students you know who are seeking future internships.


I shared some of the mishaps we’ve witnessed in interns over the years (click here to read), then began a simple of list of steps on how to be a great intern. Part One included steps like:

  1. Read and prepare beforehand. Be ready before you begin.
  2. Anticipate the needs of your new supervisors.
  3. Act grateful not entitled.
  4. Be eager to grow—never come to a meeting without a notepad.

Let me share five more ideas, then—please add to the list yourself:

1.    Show initiative; show up early.

One of our past interns asked for a key to the building on his first week. When I asked why he felt he needed it, he quickly said it wasn’t about authority—he just knew he wanted to show up early and stay late.

2.    Clearly communicate your goals, strengths and desires.

Katlyn was humble yet ambitious—you might say, “humbitious.” She let us know immediately what her long-term goals were, what her strengths were and her desires for the future, so she could fit into our needs quickly.

3.    Do whatever you’re asked to do.

I hate it when we ask an intern to do something and they remark, “Oh, I did that already at my last internship.” My reply is—It doesn’t matter. We need you to do it here. Don’t whine, serve. Do whatever you’re asked to do.

4.    Be open to criticism and feedback that will improve you.

We’ve had several interns write notes after they finished and thank us for the candid feedback and constructive criticism we offered. I love it when interns can appreciate analysis that will improve them.

5.    Own it; be responsible; take blame for mistakes and correct them.

In a two-day period, we had to ship out nearly 19,000 books. When Chris graduated from OSU, shipping books wasn’t his career goal—but he did it with a smile. When he misses it, he’s the first to apologize and make it right.

By the way, he’s now been asked to stay on and will get to do things in his sweet spot. We currently have on staff two full-time, key positions that started as interns. It’s no coincidence. They remained because they became difficult to replace. May this be your story as you begin your career.

What Items would you add to this list about how to be a great intern?

Growing Leaders is currently accepting Intern Applications for the Summer of 2013. For more information, visit

How To Be a Great Intern (Part Two)