School is out and summer internships are beginning. Internships are a proven way to expand knowledge, sharpen skills and gain real-life experience while establishing lasting connections in the industry. Plus, your new gig is also a way to get your feet wet and find out if a specific field is something you could see yourself doing full-time after graduation.

Summer internships can be highly competitive, but often provide more opportunities to work full-time without the stress of taking classes at the same time.

Now that you’ve landed your dream internship at a company you can see yourself working at full-time in the future, it’s time to focus on how you can make your internship experience the best it can be. Here are six ways to make the most out of your summer internship.

Make a strong first impression.
It’s all in the little things! From showing up on time and introducing yourself to your new team members to following your office’s dress code might seem like simple tasks, but these details are crucial for making a great first impression. A little bit of effort to help others can go a long way, even with tasks that fall outside of the typical intern to-do’s, such as helping to keep the kitchen clean or restock snacks.

Treat every day as your first, keeping a positive attitude and making yourself readily available for others to make a long-lasting impression.

Build your professional network.
An internship is a great time to build up your network of references, contacts and professionals who may one day help you get to where you want to go. Reach out to your new coworkers and the leadership team to grab a coffee or go out to lunch. Ask them about their career path and listen to their answers for ideas on how you can leverage their insight in the future. Building your network can include fun things, too. Consider joining the office book club or attending other social events in order to get to know your coworkers outside of the office.

Internships are one of the best ways to find out if an industry or company is the right fit for you, and the connections you make now could help you find a job in the future.

Stay organized.
One of my favorite tips is to keep a running to-do list or spreadsheet of projects and activities you’re working on. In some cases, you may be asked to share a weekly project update with your internship director, or you may need to submit a report for college course credit. Plus, keeping a log will help you recall what types of projects you’ve worked on over the course of your internship and better capture what you did on your resume.

Strong organizational skills will help to demonstrate to your new team that you’re ready for the real-world and can be trusted with important tasks and projects.

Develop your skills.
At the start of your internship, identify two or three skills you do not currently possess or that need improvement. Address your growth goals with your internship director and work on developing them further before the end of the summer.

If there are any opportunities for you to improve by attending a workshop or sitting in on a meeting, ask to take advantage of those. This will demonstrate a willingness to improve and allow you to gain more than just industry knowledge during your time with the company.

Ask for feedback frequently.
Asking for constructive feedback is one of the best ways to gauge your growth throughout your internship, as well as identify areas of improvement as you continue to grow. While feedback can sometimes be difficult to receive, understanding how to utilize constructive feedback to improve can make you even better.

When you can, ask your peers how you are doing and what you can do to grow – they are likely to give you a few pieces of advice as well!

End on a high note.

As you near the end of your summer internship, make sure to demonstrate your appreciation for the opportunity. Thank your supervisor, mentors and any other coworkers who helped you along your journey. A handwritten card is a small token of appreciation that will go a long way. It is often the small things you did or gestures of gratitude that people remember best.

You might also want to ask your coworkers if they would be willing to connect on LinkedIn, write you a recommendation or keep in touch for when you are looking for a real job.  Your summer internship placement might, in fact, be the best prospect for your first job out of college.

Interested in gaining real-life experience with an internship at Dittoe PR? We are now searching for fall interns. To apply, send a cover letter, resume with references, and three diverse writing samples to Sophie Maccagnone at sophie@dittoepr.com.

This blog post was drafted by former Dittoe PR intern Keeley Miller.

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