Five Tips to Stand Out in Your Internship

by Elaine Fernandez Bravo

Making Waves Education Foundation » Resources » Five Tips to Stand Out in Your Internship

BOOM! Just like that you secured your first internship. CONGRATULATIONS. You’ve done the hard part of securing the opportunity… now what?   

Internships are a vital steppingstone leading you through your career journey. Internships offer career exploration, hands-on experience, opportunities for mentorship and networking, a paycheck – and some even lead to future job offers. So, how do you make the most of your limited time with this employer? How do you leave your mark? 

During college I completed internships and externships with NielsenIQ, Project Destined, Making Waves Education Foundation, and Deloitte. My summer internship with Deloitte led to receiving a full-time job offer at the end of my experience. Based on all these experiences, I am sharing some steps I took to leave my mark.

Let me tell you five ways you can make yourself shine even more than you already do.  

As an intern, it’s important to be proactive. Don’t wait for others to reach out to you to take the first step. So, what can taking initiative look like? 

If you find yourself having some down time with all your tasks completed, ask your supervisor or whoever is overseeing your work if they need any help or if there’s anything you can do to take a load off their shoulders.

People should not only be coming to you with opportunities to learn, but you should go to them, whether it’s to shadow them doing work or to learn more about them as people or familiarize yourself with other aspects of the company you’re interning for. Seeking opportunities to learn shows curiosity, dedication, and initiative! 

Take the time to get to know people. Whether it’s emailing or texting people for a coffee chat or an informational interview – just do it. Whoever you reach out to will be thrilled to chat with you and you’ll be surprised at how much valuable information you can gain by talking with folks. 

Simply put, dress for the job you want, not the job you have – especially as an intern. If you want to be taken seriously, you must present yourself well. The attire and mannerisms you present can have a lasting impression. Make sure to look at the company’s dress code or policy to get an idea of appropriate dress for the role. Some places may ask you to go casual, business casual, or business professional, so it’s crucial to know the differences by finding some guides!

Additionally, clothes tend to be on the expensive side so some places in the Bay Area to find low-cost or free options for professional wardrobes include Wardrobe for Opportunity and Career Closet.

For mannerisms, know when, where, and with whom you can be informal vs formal. Make sure the way you’re communicating is respectful and purposeful – you’re in a work setting. 

We all know the importance of asking questions, but I think it’s worth emphasizing. 

As an intern, you’re not only there to do the job and carry out deliverables, but you’re also there to learn. If you do not know something, it’s more than okay to ASK

Remember: Curiosity is sought after and not reprimanded. Leadership would 100% prefer you to ask a question than to have you spent hours on end trying to find an answer.  

Note taking isn’t just a skill you use in the classroom. Internships are learning experiences too. Taking notes can provide you with clarity for the near future, like things you need to do, as well as provide you with opportunities to meaningfully reflect.  

Take notes during meetings, about what you’ve learned, questions you want to ask, etc.  

Also, take notes on what tasks you like about your internship and which you might not like. Not only can this allow you to leverage the skills and tasks you did when re-applying or applying elsewhere, but it can provide you with information on what things you prefer to do in your career.

This one is non-negotiable, but also the easiest piece of advice! Attend as many optional and/or required events where you get to meet other people and build relationships.  

While I was an intern, this was one of my main priorities, and it paid off! I chose to attend an optional networking event for my job at Deloitte, for example, and I connected with one of the first people I had a coffee chat with as a sophomore in college when I joined a professional development organization called Management Leadership for Tomorrow!  

Photo of Elaine with a co-worker pictured inside the Deloitte office in Sacramento
Elaine Fernandez (pictured on the left) with Management Leadership for Tomorrow alumni Kateri Gutierrez (pictured on the right) at the Deloitte office in Sacramento.

At the end of the day, part of your internship experience is to meet other people – so don’t miss out. With that, be present and enjoy your time there – it’s limited – soak it all in. 

In the end, internships are supposed to serve as ways to gain experience and engage in career discovery, so don’t feel like you have to spend the whole time obsessing over standing out. No matter what, remember you were chosen for a reason, so simply put your best foot forward and if you’re feeling a little antsy, sprinkle these tips in there to make yourself memorable.   

Photo of Elaine Fernandez with a white background

Elaine Fernandez Bravo is a Wave-Maker and a marketing and storytelling assistant at Making Waves Education Foundation. Elaine is a Bay Area native and a senior at UC Davis double majoring in managerial economics and sociology. She is a Management Leadership for Tomorrow Fellow, Hispanic Scholarship Fund Scholar, and President of Sigma Pi Alpha Sorority on her campus. She loves getting the opportunity to give back and support Making Waves in all the ways she can just like they’ve always supported her.


At Making Waves, we are committed to educational equity. Making Waves Education Foundation is a Bay Area nonprofit that supports Making Waves Academy – a public charter school with more than 1,100 5th through 12th grade students – and leads college and career programming with more than 430 college students.​

Knowing the opportunities that come with a college degree, we partner with historically underrepresented and underserved students to help make college affordable and graduation attainable. Centering the journeys of our students, our personalized approach includes college and career coaching, scholarships, and financial planning.​

Our alumni network includes more than 730 college graduates, who earn their degrees and land jobs at more than twice the rate of their first-generation, low-income peers, with 85% graduating debt-free.

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