|  June 1, 2015

5 qualities that make amazing summer interns

Today marks the start of many intern programs around the country. Whether you’ve landed the internship of your dreams or one you’re feeling “meh” about, you’re going to want to make the most of it.

Crushing it in your summer internship can lead to many really positive things.

  • Strong connections with people who can help you reach your career goals later on (by advocating for you within the company, passing your name around to their own contacts, etc.)
  • People who will serve as references or write you strong recommendations
  • Gaining a mentor (or multiple mentors)
  • In some industries, an internship can even lead to a full time offer at the end of the summer

The list could go on but let’s just agree on this… it’s important to knock it out of the park this summer.

Here are the 5 qualities that make amazing summer interns:

This is a longer read, but I promise that exhibiting these 5 qualities will lead to a positive internship experience and help you achieve your long term career goals.

great summer interns

Capable (of doing the work)

Companies don’t hire interns just for fun or because they have to. Almost every manager who gets a summer intern requested to have one, made a list of all the things they needed help with, and maybe even had to allocate budget to have one come on board.

There is real work to be done and they chose you to support that work. There are a lot of factors that go into being a great intern but if you can’t get the job done none of the other things matter.

That being said, internships are also about learning and managers fully realize they will need to train you so you can do the job. Take your training seriously and do additional work at home if it helps you get up to speed. Ask questions and take notes. It’s up to you to make sure you can do the work and do it really well.

Some managers are better at training than others… but it’s on you to find a way to get up to speed regardless of how much training you get up front.


That’s actually a good transition into this next quality, which is being proactive. A mistake that I see a lot of interns make is that they wait for work, training, or information to come to them. Change your default mode from waiting to going after it.

Your managers likely have a lot of their plates and sometimes they’re going to forget to give you a task or ask you to get started on something. If you find yourself sitting around don’t wait for work. Ask for work. Check in with your manager each morning (or evening to get ready for the following day if that’s their preference) and ask what you can help out with.

If you have true moments of downtime use it to research something relevant, read articles about the company (news.google.com is great for that), or learn a skill that you know would be helpful for your team. Don’t sit around on your phone, social media, or reading BuzzFeed.

One more important note… being proactive also means taking the initiative to go above and beyond. The best interns don’t just do what’s asked of them. They take a project, do what’s asked, and then take it one step further. Your manager will love this and it will make you stand out.


Have you ever been in a class or past internship and noticed a person who clearly looks bored? They stick right out and their lack of enthusiasm is a downer. DO NOT be that person in your intern class.

Whether you care about what you’re doing or not, you must have an enthusiastic and positive attitude. It’s non-negotiable.

Not all tasks you get handed in an internship are going to be glamorous or fun. You may be taking notes at a meeting, running an errand, making copies, etc.

You still need to do it all with a smile, ask for what you can do next, and understand that even the smallest tasks play a significant role in the bigger picture.

People notice attitude just as much as a really solid work product.


The people around you will forget you’re a college student quickly if you make it a priority to act like a true professional. Maturity in the context of summer internships can mean a lot of things.

  • not letting socializing get in the way of work
  • dressing in line with the office guidelines
  • solid communication skills whether it be over email or in a meeting
  • handling a mistake graciously and learning from it
  • not taking constructive feedback personally (and again, learning from it)

A lot of these things may not come naturally or easily (especially the last 2) when you’re in your first internship or work experience, but they are really important.

You want to be taken as seriously as a full time employee would be which sometimes means acting a few years ahead of your actual age.


This is an easy one. When you say you’re going to show up at a certain time, show up. When you say you’re going to turn in a project by Friday, turn it in on (or before) Friday. Be 5 minutes early to every meeting.

Make sure the people around you know that you’re someone they can rely on, not someone they have to follow up with 100 times to make sure things are getting done.

If you happen to be interning in New York City this summer, I hope you’ll consider joining me (on June 15th at 7pm) for a workshop on Acing Your Summer Internship. This advice is just the tip of the iceberg and the workshop will be packed with tips, tricks, and templates to help you make the most of this summer’s experience (and leave a really positive impression on your team!) Email me with questions and I hope to see you there!

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