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May 31, 2017

Rock your next internship: Communication tips for interns

Internships made a huge difference in my professional growth, and I believe they are fundamental in learning how to handle yourself in the professional world. I have at least two paid interns year round and advise many more on how to go about pursuing and excelling at using internships.

There are many, many ways to successfully pursue an internship and maximize the opportunity once you have received it. Here are four cornerstones that every summer intern should remember to maximize every opportunity – DEAL. The acronym stands for:

D – ifferentiate ... and deliver
E – mployer focused
A – sk questions
L – ose the ego

Differentiate – There are things that every individual does extremely well. There are some things that every person can do well. Differentiate yourself by greeting every person you meet on the job, regardless of title or position. Say hi to the cleaning crew. Know their names. Address your superiors with proper salutations. Ask people lower on the food chain to serve as informal mentors. Say please and thank you. Stay a little late to help someone who is not your boss. These things all help you to stand out.

Employer focused – Everyone knows the old adage, "What's in it for me? (WIIFM)" Change your thought pattern to, "What's in it for my employer?" "How can I help them (over and above what I am doing)?" "How can I add unexpected value?"

Ask questions – Not necessarily probing questions, but questions, especially questions about how people rose to the positions they are in. What advice they have for interns just starting on career paths. How the business (you are working in) works. How the person you are working for got in the business. Questions lead to insight and experience you simply can't get from a book and help you build a deeper connection and relationship with those you work for.

Lose the ego – I have had some experiences as an intern and early on in my career that were about as far from "fun" as one can get – cutting and pasting newspaper clips for hours on end wasn't a lot of fun. Those experiences proved to be invaluable in many ways. I am thankful for all of them. If someone asks something inappropriate of you, says something offensive or asking something illegal of you, report it immediately. But if someone asks you to make photocopies and you feel you should be in the boardroom, lose the ego. If someone asks you to re-write a document and you feel you shouldn't have to, it's not going to be a summer where you develop longstanding relationships.

Matt Eventoff is the founder of The Oratory Project.  The Oratory Project (T.O.P.) is a mission-based service focused on delivering customized, proprietary workshops to enhance the communication skills of "at-risk" young adults in order to empower them, help them gain confidence and help them grow professionally.