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Part Two of the Internship Sequel: The How To's of Excelling as an Extraordinary Intern

Updated: Oct 18, 2022

Congratulations on your offer letter! You're officially a hired intern. Before we get started, if you missed Part One of this internship series, The How To's of Landing an Animal Internship During a Pandemic, and Beyond, please exit out of this article, and read it over. After reading both parts of this series, you’ll ideally have learned how to locate, apply for, and get accepted into your dream internship with the tools needed to excel as soon as you get there.

So, what’s the big deal? I’ve already been accepted, right? Why should I have to keep working if it’s already in the bag?

I’m glad you asked! Contrary to common belief, receiving your offer is only the first part of the deal. In fact, I’d even go as far as to say that it’s about 40% of the deal. The rest is up to you. The way that you carry yourself, maintain professionalism, display a genuine curiosity for learning, and ace human interaction with your coworkers is actually just as important as the physical work that you’ll do during your internship. The journey is still far from over, but I'm here to help you along the way.

Let’s get started. Read below for a step-by-step guide to performing as an extraordinary intern.

  1. Do your research.

The first thing that you’ll want to do is refresh yourself on the who’s, what’s, when’s and where’s of your internship. For example, where is your internship located? Is it going to require travel, and if so, how are you going to get to and from work? What is the attire of your internship? Is a housing or food stipend included with your offer, or will you have to pay out-of-pocket? If so, how are you going to afford it? These are just a few questions to help you get started, and your questions should shed some light on things that you can do to get prepared for your internship.

Now that we’ve come up with some questions, it's time to find some answers! One tip that I have is to find as much information as possible from the internship listing before reaching out to your hiring manager or supervisor. In doing this, you’ll get any simple questions that you have answered without badgering your supervisor with questions that you likely have or can find the answers to. Once you’ve eliminated your preliminary questions, draft an email to your supervisor with any remaining questions that you might have. If you haven’t yet sent a thank you email and accepted the position, do this before you send the email containing your questions! Wait for a response to your thank you email (or five days, whichever comes first), and then send your “question email”. This may sound hectic, but it truly is important to maintain professionalism even through email communication.

2. Prepare yourself with a winning mindset.

Now that you have a rundown of what to expect from your internship, it’s time to prepare yourself with everything you’ll need to excel. The first thing that I’d like you to do is take a deep breath. I know you skipped it, but seriously, go back and take a deep breath!

While it might sound silly, your mindset about this experience is going to shape your performance more than any preparation ever could. Imposter syndrome is real, especially in times when no one around you looks like you, talks like you, or seems to come from a similar background as you. In times like those, it’s important to remember that you are there for a reason, you’re just as capable as anyone around you, and that your efforts are going to make it possible for others in your community to have access to that same internship opportunity.

Think about it. You’ve already been accepted. You’re more than capable. You’ve been given an opportunity to show what you know in the field that you love, and it’s up to you to ace it! I say all that to say that you’re more than enough, and that you are who has taken you this far. Everything that you need on the inside of yourself is already ready, and all that’s left is to shape up what’s on the outside!

3. Establish your internship goals.

What do you want to get out of your internship? Are you hoping to develop a new physical skill, network, gain exposure to a potential career interest, or all of the above? By determining exactly what it is that you’d like to learn, you’ll be able to effectively communicate your internship goals to your supervisors. This step is a step that many new interns may overlook (I admittedly just started doing this this summer), but simply letting your managers know what you’re interested in participating in beyond your internship description can help you get yourself into rooms that might have never seen your face if you hadn’t spoken up.

For example, let’s say you’re interested in veterinary medicine and your internship is at a pet boarding facility. You notice that there’s a veterinarian that comes to do surgeries once a week, and you remember that one of your goals for your internship was to learn about the veterinary medicine component of the facility in addition to your other internship duties. With your internship goal in mind, you’d politely ask your manager if you can shadow the veterinarian sometime. The worst they can say is no!

This step will look different depending on what type of internship you’ll be participating in, but in summary, make an effort to professionally and sincerely voice anything that you’d like to try during your experience.

4. Prepare any materials needed for your first day.

If applicable, go ahead and figure out what you’ll need for the first day of your internship, and make sure that you have it. This might mean going to get business professional clothing, figuring out your travel to and from work, or even just packing your lunch ahead of time. These are all things that should never be left for the last minute, as they can add up and result in you being late to the first day of your internship, which we definitely want to avoid!

5. Show up, show out, and stay consistent.

On your first day, try to arrive no less than ten minutes early. It’s showtime! “Show Up and Show Out” means to treat every day of your internship as if it's your first day. Go above and beyond in everything that you’re asked to do, as it really does matter! You might think that certain tasks that you’re given are small or unimportant, but oftentimes your performance in such tasks can lead to either an increase in more meaningful work, or a lesser workload depending on how you handle it. Treat every action like a test, and make sure that you’re maintaining the same amount of reverence for your internship itself, and your coworkers, as you would anything else. Internship offers can be rescinded, and you never want to find yourself in that position simply as a result of getting too comfortable.

Ask questions, say “yes” to any and everything, and speak up. There’s truly no such thing as a dumb question, especially in a field as large and inclusive as that of animal science. If you really want to show that you’re interested in the daily happenings of your internship, after you ask a question, take notes! Taking notes is a great way to not only track everything that you’re learning, but also to show that you’re present and interested in the job.

6. Have fun!

Other than that, have fun. An internship is a wonderful opportunity to get to know what you love, and to get more exposure to areas that you might dedicate your life’s work toward. Some of the coolest life experiences that I have ever had have come from internships, and I can honestly say that my having fun while working contributed to many of them.

If you don’t enjoy your internship, that’s okay too! You still would have been successful, as you would have learned what it is that you don’t like, and what areas you might prefer to go into. With that being said, make sure that you refrain from displaying your dislike in your internship, as it ultimately is still an opportunity that you were given, and its important to show deference in the workplace as you never know when you could run into one of your supervisors or someone that they know in the future.

7. Stay in touch.

Lastly, stay in touch with your managers/supervisors. This can be simple things like connecting with them on LinkedIn or sending them an email every once in a while, just to keep in contact and maintain the professional connection that you likely built over the course of your internship.

And that’s it! Thank you for reading along through this mini-series, and I hope that you enjoyed it and learned a lot. Feel free to send me a message via our Contact page if you have any further questions, or want to share your internship experience with me!

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