5 Tips for a Successful Summer Internship

In the movie The Internship, a couple of bumbling unemployed salesmen apply for summer internships at Google in hopes of working their way into permanent positions at the company. While it's an outlandish Hollywood comedy starring the dudes from Wedding Crashers, the film's plot isn't as ridiculously far-fetched as you might think.

According to a recent survey by The Creative Group, advertising and marketing executives said the greatest benefit of offering internships is the ability to identify new talent. Translation: Perform well and you can gain an invaluable "in" that could eventually lead to a full-time job offer. Are you a college student getting ready to start a summer internship at a design firm or in-house creative department? Here are five ways to make the most of the opportunity:

  1. Treat it like a real job. Rather than thinking of yourself as "just an intern," adopt the mindset of a full-time employee. Quickly make a positive impression by demonstrating your drive and commitment to providing meaningful contributions. During your first days on the job, take the initiative to clarify your core job duties and big-picture objectives with your manager. Ask how and when you should provide project status updates, and how your overall performance will be evaluated.
  2. Learn the rules of the road.Every organization has its own policies, procedures and processes. Not knowing the laws of the land or ignoring them can lead to unnecessary headaches and awkward talks with your supervisor. (Make sure you get the scoop on the employer's social media policy, for instance.) Beyond the formal rules, strive to get a sense of the prevailing office culture. Closely observe how employees interact with one another and then adapt your work style and behavior accordingly.
  3. Look the part. Make a statement with your strong performance not your attire. Avoid fashion faux pas by following the written dress code and watching what others wear. When in doubt, dress a step above what you think is expected. Yes, it's summer. But before rocking the beach gear, be mindful that "casual Friday" isn't necessarily code for flip-flops and tank tops.
  4. Be upbeat. Attitude is everything. OK, so design talent and work ethic are also key factors to career success, but don't underestimate the importance of having a positive outlook and friendly demeanor. Accept assignments with enthusiasm, even when you're asked to tackle less-than-glamorous tasks.
  5. Aim to impress everyone. You want to win over your manager so that you leave with a great reference. But don't focus solely on winning over that one person. Try to meet and build relationships with as many people within the organization as you can. Attend company outings or training sessions, volunteer to assist with cross-departmental initiatives or simply strike up conversations at the water cooler. Take an interest in others' work, ask good questions and share your career aspirations. You never know who could help you down the line.

As the internship draws to a close, write thank-you notes to anyone who helped or mentored you. And keep in touch. The more people you have in your corner, the better your odds of securing recommendations, job leads or even an employment offer after you graduate.