Best Advice for Future Interns

Published: Nov 08, 2021

Last summer, Firsthand surveyed more than 11,400 interns from 140 internship programs. The survey, from which we derived our 100 Best Internships ranking, asked interns to rate their internship experiences in a variety of areas, including career development, compensation, full-time employment prospects, interview process, quality of life, quality of assignments, and diversity. It also asked interns if they had specific “advice for future interns”—regarding how future interns could best make use of their programs, what to expect, and how best to position themselves for full-time positions post-graduation.

What follows are the five most common (and useful) pieces of advice that our survey takers had for future summer interns.

1. Don't be afraid to ask questions—and ask a lot of them

Numerous interns who took our survey recommend that “interns lose their fear of asking questions.” This might be the best piece of advice interns can take heading into any internship, and one interns need to keep with them all times. Survey takers also stress the importance that interns need to remember that “people at the company are there to help you”—and “they want to help you.” Also, as one intern notes, “It’s important to know that everyone within the organization is always willing to take the time to talk with you and help you learn.”

In addition, it’s important to “ask as many questions as you can,” since “the people you work with all have very valuable advice and insight to offer.” Another intern offers: “Reach out to people when you need help, as everyone I met went out of their way to be helpful, no matter how busy they were.” As far as how to go about asking questions, one interns says: “I’d introduce my questions by letting my manager or peers know what I understood about my responsibilities, and then asking them whether I was understanding correctly. This sparked a lot of conversation and questions. Asking questions early on will save you so much time.”

2. Network, network, network—meet as many as people as possible

Taking advantage of internships’ networking opportunities can’t be stressed enough by our survey takers, who recommend that interns attend every networking event they can, meet with as many people in and outside their team as possible, and be proactive with respect to any chance to interact with a member of the organization they intern with. According to one intern, “Employees here really do want to talk with interns and get to know them, so my advice would be to take advantage of that. It took me a while to appreciate how helpful speaking to them was, and I wish I’d started reaching out sooner.”

Indeed, it’s important to always be outgoing and eager to meet your fellow colleagues, interns, coordinators, and mentors—they’ll help improve your experience and teach you. As one intern says, “Definitely network! There are so many cool people here willing to talk to interns. Don’t be afraid to throw time on people’s calendars and talk to them about anything, work-related or otherwise.” Interns also say don’t be afraid to meet with the higher-ups and people outside your department—and “it doesn't have to be formal, but just a quick chat to get to know others in the company.” As one intern says, “Network more than you think.”

3. Be open-minded and ready to learn

In significant numbers, interns advise future interns to “be curious,” “be open to learning and picking up skills even if they’re not in your fields of expertise,” “try to gain a breadth of knowledge and pick up insights,” and “be ready to learn and soak up a lot of information.” Indeed, it’s highly important to enter an internship “with your eyes and ears open.”

It’s also important (and perhaps comforting) to remember that “most full-time employees understand that you haven’t worked or gained extensive experience on the job yet, and are more than willing to be supportive and helpful. With that said, my advice is go into the internship with an optimistic mindset and ready to learn.”

Another intern recommends: “Be a sponge! There are incredible people here with incredible knowledge, so take it all in!” Yet another advises that “it’s important to stay open-minded—and to think of the internship as a 10-week interview process.”

4. Be proactive—say “yes” to everything

It’s not only important to be ready to learn but also ready to take initiative and take control of your learning experience. According to one intern, “Anyone looking to start here should know that they need to take every opportunity given to them. The firm is very willing to let interns go outside their set assignments to learn something new if the intern believes it will be beneficial to their own growth. Another thing to know is that interns who take initiative and want to work will flourish and grow.”

Indeed, it’s important that interns make the most of their experiences and understand that “they get out what they put in.” Interns recommend to “make sure that you utilize all the opportunities and chances to learn what you can over the course of your internship,” and “if you have free time, take advantage of it by setting up calls or asking your team if they need help with anything—even if they don't need help, they'll appreciate it and remember you for your tenacity.” As one intern simply notes: “Say yes to everything,”

5. Be yourself

“Be yourself” was another extremely common piece of advice, and one that should hopefully put a lot of future interns at ease. This piece of advice holds true for the interview process as well as for the internship itself. One intern says, “Trust yourself enough to be who you are during the interview.” Another advises to “be authentic in interviews—and during your internship. The company chose YOU, so show them who you are and what you can bring to the table. When given a voice, use it.”

Yet another intern wants future interns to remember this: “Don’t sell yourself short! Don’t waste any time considering yourself as just an intern. You have so much value and so many skills and unique experiences of your own to share with colleagues at more levels than you think.” And yet another intern, echoing similar sentiments, has this advice: “Don't be afraid to speak up, share your expertise, and be yourself. The company sees its interns just as it sees its full-time employees: valuable to its business.”

The Most Prestigious Internships, Best Internships by Industry and Role, and More

Tomorrow, we’ll be revealing our Most Prestigious Internships, and Wednesday we'll be revealing our complete Internship Rankings. Already, we’ve released our 2022 Internship Rankings for Accounting, Consulting, and Investment Banking, as well as our 100 Best Internships30 Best Internships for Diversity30 Best Internships for Training & Mentoring, Best Internships for Data Analytics, and Best Internships for Sales & Marketing. So, check back later this week for more Internship Rankings by Prestige, Industry, Employment Factor, and Role!

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