Nine Keys to Succeeding in Your Internship

Be accountable

  • Arrive on time and communicate if you’re going to be late
  • Follow the company break schedule
  • Complete your tasks by their deadlines
  • Follow up on things to which you have committed

Approach all tasks with a positive and eager mindset

  • Complete all tasks with enthusiasm—even some of the less-than-exciting tasks an intern may be called upon to do.

Follow common workplace expectations

  • Follow dress codes
  • Be aware of expectations for use of headphones – typically frowned upon in corporate settings
  • When in doubt about an office policy, ask.


  • Use your time at your host company to meet as many people as possible and learn what they do.

Build a relationship with your supervisor

  • If your supervisor doesn’t set up a meeting with you, ask for time to meet.
  • Ask for feedback from your supervisor to make sure you are on the right track.
  • Share your own goals for your internship so s/he knows what you would like to learn.

Set up strong organizational systems

  • Get familiar with the email, phone and other communications systems, such as Slack.
  • Keep your calendar up to date and check it regularly.
  • Keep your email organized and respond promptly to messages.
  • Keep up-to-date lists of tasks and deadlines.

Managing up: Keeping your manager informed

  • Send updates to your manager when you’ve finished projects or to inform them of your status
  • If you anticipate challenges completing a certain task/meeting a deadline, communicate in advance of the deadline
  • Communicate when you have downtime
  • Be proactive- if you anticipate downtime could come up again in the future, ask for examples of things you could be doing during this downtime.

Take Initiative

  • Ask for resources that will help you better understand the company and your team’s culture and goals. This will also help with any downtime you may experience.
  • Observe something that could potentially be done more efficiently and have an idea of a way to address it? Share the idea with your supervisor.
  • If you have any free time in the day and, or you can plan in advance, arrange to shadow a colleague to learn about a new task.

Follow email communication best practices

  • Email is formal communication within the workplace – use appropriate subject lines, greetings and sign-offs.
  • Use a businesslike tone.
  • Proofread your email before you send it.
  • Emails live forever on the computer network. Never send anything you wouldn’t want your supervisor to read and share.

Read more in Bottom Line’s full Guide to a Successful Internship:

Project Onramp is ready to break down barriers and speed students from low-income backgrounds to success—while helping our member companies build the statewide labor pool and boost diversity.

Commit to diversifying your internship talent pipeline!

  • Lila Neel

Learn about sponsoring internships:

15 + 10 =