Internship: Everything You Need to Know About It

Everything you need to know about internships
Picture by: Ben White

The expert at anything was once a beginner

Helen Hayes, American actress

The internship implies that you are about to enter a new world, which you don’t know anything about yet except through books, the media, and your imagination! So your first steps will probably look like this:

Baby struggling to walk like it's your first internship
You will follow your referent closely with a slightly hesitant step!

Your apprehension is legitimate. But don’t forget that even the most experienced person started one day like you and had to learn everything from scratch.

So it’s natural that you won’t be accustomed to everything right away. However, it is your duty to be humble and attentive to transform your first steps into success and one day become a seasoned professional.

But first, why doing an internship?

The importance of the internship

I have to emphasize the importance of doing internships. We do not always measure the impact of it, since we believe that our diplomas will be sufficient to prove our qualifications, but that is not true.

In my experience, it was my internships that opened the doors of my first job.

An internship is an excellent way to discover the business world.

It is the certainty of personal and professional development.

The internship will give you guidance about your career path, you will discover a job and a sector that you might like or dislike.

Companies welcome candidates who have completed internships in companies because they know that they have developed a more concrete business approach than the theory in their book.

Practical experience is as important as the quality of your diploma.

By doing an internship, you will network by interacting professionals from lots of different backgrounds.

You might find a mentor who will guide you during your professional life, or at least will help you find a job by providing you good references and recommendation.

For instance, the recommendation letter I had from my managers contributed to my recruitment for my first job, so always try to keep contact and a good relationship with your tutor. Add them on Linkedin to keep them close.

How to find an internship?

There are different ways you can find an internship. You can do so through:

  • The career center of your college
  • Your network: Family, friends, previous employers, alumni, etc.
  • Contacting companies you have targeted asking if they would be interested in having an intern
  • Online databases that gather all job postings from major job boards, associations and company career pages. Here are some of them:


Indeed search bar: It's one the best tools for finding an internship!
Indeed results


Idealist search bar: It's one the best tools for finding an internship!
Idealist results


SimplyHired search bar: It's one the best tools for finding an internship!
SimplyHired results

Chegg Internships

Chegg internships search bar: It's one the best tools for finding an internship!
Chegg Internships results

How to behave?

Don’t be the stereotypical millennial

As you know, the generation of the millennia, generation Y and Z, is the subject of countless studies and conferences. Understanding our generation is as complex as understanding the theory of relativity!

Simon Sinek, a British-American author and speaker, did an interview about millennials in the workplace and described our generation pretty well. This topic is so attractive to masses that it generated about 30 million views! See it for yourself:

The adjectives that describe the generation are not always the most flattering: Impatient, self-centered… In my opinion, this depiction is caricatured. But having experience working closely with young people, I can tell you it isn’t always too far from the truth!

So here is my advice: The internship is a great opportunity to differentiate yourself and prove others wrong about the negative biases they have about your behavior in the workplace.

With that in mind, here are my 8 tips to make you a perfect intern like Robert De Niro 🙂

8 tips to be the ideal intern

1. During the first stages of the recruitment process, do not ask about your benefits right away

This sort of questions undermine your credibility.

  • Regarding the salary: Ask the question in the last round of the interview only.
  • Regarding schedules: Observe your environment on the first day, ask your colleagues and adapt.

Story time!  

I remember an internship candidate who was from a prestigious school, who had an exceptional academic background. She had it all right on paper.

However, in the interview, she couldn’t stop talking about her schedule. I told her that the schedules were classic but that in case of an emergency she might have to stay later, and I felt that she was not comfortable with the idea.

You should not run as soon as the clock hits “leave” o’clock. If there’s an emergency or an important deadline, you must be ready to stay a bit longer.

Otherwise, it challenges your reliability, ability to work, compromise and team spirit. We did not select this candidate because we doubted about her motivation. Especially since internships are usually for a short period of time.

So it’s time to clench your teeth and do more if necessary to leave a great impression.

It is your reputation and references for your future employers that are at stake!

A clarifying note: As always, everything’s a matter of balance. Of course, don’t always stay late to show that you’re willing to do anything. People will take advantage of that and it could affect your personal life. The goal is to show that you’re willing to run the extra mile while having respect for yourself.

2. Be humble

Don’t expect to have only strategic or high value-added tasks: You are there to learn, you are not a professional yet so listen and accept the less rewarding tasks, we have all been there. You must first get immersed in the position before you can add more strategic value!!

Here again, it’s a matter of balance: Do not let your employer abuse of your intern position. You’re there to learn, not to bring coffee!

3. Accept criticism

Listen to both positive and negative comments. Of course, it is never pleasant to receive critics but you are new to the professional world so it is normal if everything is not perfect.

Use negative feedback as the lesson of the day. And most importantly, internalize the learnings to become a better professional.

4 Ask questions

Show your curiosity and desire to learn by showing interest in the different tasks, by asking questions to your colleagues. If you are stuck, ask! Don’t be afraid to ask.

Don’t be afraid to look “stupid”!! Everyone else started the same way one day and asked basic questions, so don’t censor yourself.

Asking all the questions you need will help you learn quicker and perform better.

5. Take notes

Get to work prepared with a notebook and pen to note all possible remarks, advice, and tasks.

You will immediately show your seriousness and professionalism. Plus, it will avoid you having to ask the same questions several times or repeat previous mistakes.

6. Have a tidy desk!

It seems harmless and yet it is an important aspect of your image.

You are not at home, you are in the workplace. So make the effort to tidy up your desk. No tissues, crumbs or documents lying around everywhere!!

A tidy office sends a positive message from an organized and structured person. On my first internship, I didn’t realize how important it was. I used to believe that as long as I didn’t mess with my neighbors’ desks I could do whatever I wanted.

Wrong! It was the remarks of my tutors that raised awareness of the need to tidy up my desk to avoid any negative preconceptions.

So, clean up your desk! Its status is the reflection of your head. An organized desk means an organized head!

7. Demonstrate initiative

Both with your manager by asking him/her for regular feedback, or by offering your help to your colleagues. Don’t always wait for the tasks to come to you, go get them too! Proactivity is highly appreciated.

8. Behave in the afterwork

Your colleagues will most likely offer you a drink after work, the company can also organize a Happy Hour. It’s a great way to interact with your colleagues in a more informal way, integrate more easily, and learn more about the social dynamics of your company.

Afterwork also allows you to meet new coworkers and enrich your professional network. It’s also a good idea to participate in the company’s events because it shows your good spirit.

But never force yourself, you have the right not to go or to stay 30 minutes and then leave.

But be very careful not to confuse a night among coworkers with a night among friends! This statement seems obvious, but sometimes caught up in the middle of the party, we can forget the limits and codes of the company.

It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently

Warren Buffett

Don’t jeopardize your professionalism because of one extra mojito that will permanently damage your reputation and credibility.

Never forget that everything is seen, reported, judged and amplified.

So yes you can drink a little, laugh and show your personality. But don’t let yourself be drawn into actions that you will regret the next day.

What to do if the internship doesn’t meet your expectations?

A burger on the advertisement vs the actual burger: Relatable if your internship isn't what you were expecting!

Before our first experience, the business world is a little misty. We don’t know what to expect and we may tend to idealize it. Super colleagues, super high-impact tasks, super spirit, super after work…!

Both during the job search and at the interview it is likely that the internship will be oversold to you. In this war of attracting talent, the interest of recruiters or managers is to draw you in. The recruiter is not going to highlight the fact that the atmosphere is bad or the tasks are repetitive!

Some companies might be more transparent than others, but there will always be stuff to find out about.

Having a positive and enthusiastic mind is great! But also be realistic about the daily life of a company and a business.

It’s not pink every day. Be aware of that to avoid any disillusionment. In addition, I invite you to contact the current trainee via LinkedIn to get their unbiased opinion in order to get the most accurate idea of the internship.

An internship goes quickly, and most of the problems you might encounter can be solved or at least mitigated. Here are some of the most common ones:

You don’t like the industry or the profession

An internship is designed to discover areas of activity and learn about your future career. It is, therefore, possible that you do not like the job.

But that’s exactly the objective of the internship, to refine your professional project.

In my case, it was by doing internships in law that I understood I was not blossoming and that I had to change my path. It was beneficial in the long term. At the moment though, I give you that, it was pretty stressful!

You don’t have enough work

In case this happens, offer your help to coworkers, gently ask them if you can attend some meetings, tell them that you are curious and eager to learn.

If they have nothing to give you, talk to your tutor. Be proactive and get your tasks! If you really have absolutely nothing to do and despite your proactivity, nothing changes, then stick till the end and never come back!

Rest assured your skills will be valued elsewhere 🙂

You have too much work to do

This one’s the direct opposite. Having work to do is great, it means you’re having the opportunity to apply what you have learned in college.

But, as always, everything’s a matter of balance. Don’t let them abuse of your disposition to get things done.

If you’re having too much work, focus on your core tasks, prioritize and say no to anything that doesn’t comply with these guidelines.

Also, remember your manager is there to help. Talk to him/her if you feel like you have too much on your plate.

You don’t get along with the team

It is precious to get along well with our colleagues and be part of the team. Indeed, we spend a lot of time with them thus it’s better to work in a healthy environment.

If you don’t feel integrated, it’s not necessarily against you, but your colleagues regularly see trainees come and go.

They have learned not to get too attached because they know that you’ll stay for a short period of time. Moreover, they’ve been working together for a long time, so they have established a certain level of complicity.

Make the necessary efforts to integrate yourself, show interest in being one of the team. But if there is no positive response, don’t worry. Don’t insist.

So even if it’s not at all pleasant to feel excluded, remember that it’s a short period of time, that it goes away quickly and that you have a deadline. So try to focus on your tasks and not on your colleagues.

You do not get along with your internship tutor

Things may go wrong with your internship tutor. And this can happen due to several reasons:

  • Your tutor didn’t even want to be a tutor in the first place
  • Your tutor’s personality traits aren’t compatible with yours
  • Your tutor is a jerk
  • Your performance isn’t what he/she was expecting

In either case, the first step is to confront him/her. Express you don’t feel like the relationship is going as expected.

Be conciliatory. Ask for honest feedback and try to improve accordingly. Express your concerns and what you’d like him/her to do in order to get along.

Communication and dialogue are key to improving interactions.

If that doesn’t work and you keep feeling uncomfortable around your tutor, then it’s time to talk to Human Resources who can act as intermediaries, or to a senior manager who can re-assign you a different tutor.

You don’t receive any feedback

It may happen that your manager does not take the time to give you feedback on your work or have no follow-up. But an internship should be beneficial for you and the company.

You are there to work but also to learn and progress, and without any feedback, progress slows down.

Your tutor must ensure regular follow-ups with you. If he/she does not do it spontaneously then take the initiative. You can suggest a feedback session during the lunch break or on Friday afternoon to review the tasks of the week and the objectives of the following week.

Again, don’t wait for him/her to organize the meeting with you. He/she may do it, but in his/her busy daily life forgetfulness happens. So don’t be afraid, Your proactivity will actually be appreciated.

Your tasks do not correspond to the job description

Before starting, heads up: Don’t expect strategic tasks from day one! You must prove yourself first and gain the trust of your tutor & team.

Only then, you can be more demanding in terms of the quality of your tasks.

If the missions are completely unrelated to the job description, talk about it and try to understand the reasons.

Be flexible and open. Explain that you have no problem working on tasks outside the initial scope but that you would also like to work on the tasks/projects for which you initially applied.

Try to find a compromise. If you really feel that you are wasting your time and not developing all the skills you need, then you may consider quitting.

In short: Communication is key

As you can see, I believe that in most of the situations described above a solution can be found. For all, it is essential to communicate.

I remember trainees asking to stop their internship without even talking to their manager about their dissatisfaction. What a pity… you have to, at least, have an honest discussion with your manager about your concerns.

If you are too apprehensive and have the chance, talk to Human Resources, who can act as an intermediary.

Do not wait until the end of the internship to express your frustrations.

Face the difficulties and you will emerge from them stronger. You will develop your assertiveness and self-confidence because it takes courage to deal with a problem as opposed to running from it.

So no matter what happens, you will get something positive out of it. See it this way: If you don’t make progress on your hard skills you will make progress on your soft skills.

Last ressource: How to quit your internship

Although I  believe that in most cases a solution can be found to avoid stopping your internship, sometimes the only way out is to terminate the contract before its completion.

Under no circumstances should the continuation of your internship be to the detriment of your moral or physical health. Do not let anyone disrespect you or exploit you, and do not let them force you to do tasks that seriously compromise your ethics or values.

If you have already communicated your concerns and nothing changes, then it is time to leave and look elsewhere.

In this case, you should discuss it with your school and your manager to explain the reasons for your departure.

You should also send a resignation letter to Human Resources. Here’s a sample:

Subject: Interruption of internship

Dear [Name],

I have been an intern since [Date] with the [Team. Ex: Marketing team] under the supervision of [Manager’s name].
I hereby inform you of my desire to interrupt my internship as of [End date].
The reasons that led me to this decision are:

[Explain why you’re terminating your internship. Be factual instead of emotional or aggressive].

I spoke to my tutor about my concerns but I have seen no progress. Therefore, I have made the decision of leaving in order to find an internship that better meets my expectations.

I thank you for the trust you have placed in me by recruiting me and remain at your disposal if you wish to hold a more thorough discussion.

Best regards,

How to conclude your internship like a cherry on the cake

Don’t worry, even if we mentioned the worst-case scenarios, it is much more likely that your internship will go very well. If that’s the case, here are my 6 tips to conclude your internship in the best possible way.

1. Thank everyone involved

Take a few minutes to write an email in which you express your gratitude for the internship for your team and your manager!

Let them know about your future plans and include your LinkedIn profile and other contact details.

Here’s a sample:

Subject: Thank you!!

Hi everyone,

I would like to thank you for these months spent with you. The assignments you have entrusted me have allowed me to grow professionally and to see more clearly about the future of my career.

I have enjoyed working with each one of you!

Special thanks to [Tutor’s name] for your trust and your precious advice and thank you to the whole team who welcomed me with kindness and friendliness. The internship wouldn’t have been as enjoyable without you!

After the internship, I plan to [Insert your short-term plans].

It is not without a little nostalgia that I am leaving you, but let’s keep in touch!

I can be reached through:
LinkedIn: [Insert profile link]
Cell phone: [Insert phone number]
Email address: [Insert email address]

Hope to see you soon!

2. Have a final, reciprocal feedback session

Whether the internship went very well or not, it is necessary that you have a final discussion with your manager so that he/she can tell you about your qualities, strengths and also your areas for improvement. It is important for your progress to have global and final feedback of the work you’ve done.

It is also a time for you to share your feelings about the internship and to express what you liked and disliked about it.

If you feel that your manager was not present enough, do not hesitate to tell him/her. This will allow him/her to be more vigilant with his/her next trainee.

3. Ask for a recommendation letter

If your internship went well, it is really advantageous to ask for a recommendation letter that will attest of the quality of your work. It will reassure your next employer and will have a positive impact on your candidacy.

The final feedback session mentioned above is the perfect opportunity to do so.

4. Update your resume while the experience is fresh on your mind

While it’s still fresh in your head, update your resume. I advise you to do it in the last week because you will have finished most of your assignments.

You can also ask your manager for an opinion. He/she can help you to formulate your tasks with more professional terms.

5. Add your experience on Linkedin

Just like your resume, update your Linkedin profile as long as everything is clear in your head.

Add your colleagues to your network and don’t hesitate to ask for a recommendation.

LinkedIn recommendations. One of the strategic ways of ending your internship

6. Take a step back to reflect

Finally, your internship must raise some self-reflection. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What did I like and dislike the most?
  • What did I get out of it?
  • Do I want to continue in this direction or not? Why?
  • Do I project myself into this environment?
  • Were there other jobs in the company that attracted me more?
  • Is this making me happy?

It is essential to take this time to reflect.

I remember that during my legal internship, I spent my time talking with Human Resources. That raised my awareness about a potential change of direction.

The answers to all these questions may lead to some reconsideration. Don’t panic, it’s normal. It’s one of the objectives of the internship: to confirm or deny an orientation!

So the sooner you do an internship, the sooner you will be able to reorient if necessary.


I started this article with a quote, so I’d like to finish on the same dynamic.

Tell me and I’ll forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I’ll learn

Benjamin Franklin

An internship is an amazing opportunity to grow personally and professionally. It’s not only about gathering skills, but also about better knowing yourself.

Communication is essential for a positive experience, so don’t be afraid of speaking up!

If you realize that what you’re doing isn’t for you, don’t be afraid. In fact, congrats! You have successfully reached one of the goals of an internship.

And finally, never forget that the ultimate goal is to have a sense of fulfillment. Listen to yourself, and act according to the advice of your inner voice!

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