The 7 Golden Rules for a Happy Internship

05/14/2014 03:31 pm ET Updated Jul 14, 2014

Internships are now the ultimate norms for college students. Many students perceive an internship as a disguise for companies to get free/cheap labor but what they may not see is that they are also gaining something from it as well. Whether it is simply the company's name on your resume or a few months of hands-on work experience, it is still worth your time. Tough academic course loads, extra curricular activities on and off campus, as well as relevant internships are three necessary ingredients for students to stand out in a challenging job market.

Some tips to keep in mind when picking out an internship:

  1. Internships are not for everyone. Many students have full time jobs that they need to take on to pay off loans, expenses, and life in general. Taking on an internship is time consuming and typically involves a lot of grunt work and occasional heavy lifting. Students need to keep in mind that when they agree to an internship, they are in it more for the learning experience and less about the pay. But for the lucky ones that can land both, hats off to you!

  • Do not bite off more than you can chew
    College students often make too many commitments upfront with activities, a rigorous course load, a part-time job, Greek life, and an internship on top of all that. An internship should be a fun experience for you to apply what you have learned in school in a real life setting. If at any point, you feel like you cannot handle your workload then it is time to prioritize. If the internship is at the bottom of the list, it is ok to defer it or withdraw at any time. You should not be stressing yourself to the point where your grades suffer. Remember you are a student first and an intern second.
  • Do not compare yourself to others
    When it comes to internships, it is ok to be competitive and push yourself to do the best and land that dream internship. But you do not want to compare what offers you get with what offers your friends get because everyone has their own learning goals. Since internships are about learning, do not compare yourself to what others are doing.
  • You do not have to love the internship you take on
    Internships are about testing the waters for you. What you may initially think you want to do may not be what you will want to do. You will never know until you try and it is better to find out sooner than later in your career. Regardless, know that you will still gain great work experience no matter what internship you take on. The more internships and experiences you have, the more you will learn about yourself. Boss-to-employee relationships are vastly different from professor-to-student.
  • Network, network, network
    When you are in your internship, please do not stay chained to your cubicle. Interns should make a point to get to know their boss, their coworkers, and other people in different departments. Do not just clock-in and clock-out and only stay in the office to work. Networking helps you build up your list of professional references that can help you later in your job search. This will set you apart from only personal and academic references.
  • Ask for a concrete project
    Talk to your boss about setting a concrete project deliverable for the duration of your internship so that you can claim ownership and personal contribution in your resume. This also prevents you from being dragged into solely doing grunt work. The only exception to tolerating this type of work is if the company's brand name makes up for it.
  • Internships end The most important tip to keep in mind is that internships end. Even if the internship in the summer ends up being the worst experience you ever had and your boss resembles Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Your internship will end and you can move on with grace and what is left of your dignity.