General / Reflections

Five Tips to Have a Successful Internship

By Emily Messerly, PRSSA Member

We’ve all heard about the importance of internships. They are the key to getting your references, building skills, and ultimately landing your first job, but only you determine what you gain from the opportunity. Through my own internship experience, which involved working as a press/legislative intern for Senator Tom Harkin in Washington D.C., I learned five things that will give any intern a successful experience.

1)    Network-How did I get such an incredible internship? I reached out to a family member who has worked for the Senator for almost twenty-five years.Building relationships with your collegues can prove beneficial when you look for a job post-graduation.

2)    Take Initiative-In my internship, some days had a lot of downtime. However, I wasn’t there to sit around, so I went out of my way to get work. There were times when it was menial, but it led to more opportunities. Employers need to see that you’re dependable, and demonstraing that you’re capable of initiative is a huge showing point for them.

3)    Don’t Ever Say ‘I’ll Never Use This’-Did I ever learn this the hard way. One day, I was asked to do a project which involved creating a spreadsheet with working formulas. Um . . .oops. Just that past fall I had taken a class that dealt with spreadsheets, and I didn’t remember a thing because I never thought I would use it. Eventually, I did figure it out, but it’s much easier to benefit from every class, and not just the ones you think are important.

4)    Learn From Experience-Your colleagues are going to be the best sources of information, because they’ve been there and done that. We had the privilege of having lunches with most of the major staff, who would go over their college and career paths. Everyone has a unique story, and you can benefit from everything they experienced.

5)    Go Above and Beyond-Doing only what you’re told simply shows your supervisor you can take direction well. Going above and beyond shows your employer that you’re hard working and can think outside of the box. Companies are always looking for innovative minds. Take every task you’re given as far as you can, even if it’s something small.

Interested in an opportunity to intern for a Senator? Go to for more information.

Follow Emily on Twitter! @emilymesserly


2 thoughts on “Five Tips to Have a Successful Internship

  1. Fantastic tips, Emily! I particularly agree with go above and beyond. It definitely sets you apart from the rest and allows your employers to see what an asset you are for their company (and who knows, maybe THEY will offer you your first position!)

  2. Pingback: Five Things I Learned About Life from My Internship | University of Iowa PRSSA

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