Professionalism: The Key to a Successful Internship – By Rachel Brown

IHAThis past summer, I was a communications intern at the Indiana Hospital Association. IHA represents Indiana hospitals and provides them with leadership, representation, and support. With a full-time staff of only twenty-five people, an internship at IHA gave me the opportunity to significantly contribute to the organization. As is normal for the members of the communications team, I frequently collaborated with all staff members—not just those in my department. To earn the respect of my much more experienced colleagues and build relationships with them, professionalism was key to my success at work. Taking your work seriously as an intern pays huge dividends both in the short and long-term. Here are my four tips for interning professionally.

Step 1: Dress to Impress

Know the dress code for your office and make sure your clothes are up to snuff. Your appearance is a large part of the impression you give to your coworkers. When you dress appropriately, everyone will take you more seriously—including yourself. Donning that suit or dress may actually encourage you to be more focused and productive at work. I know when I dressed the part, I was more confident and did better work.

Step 2: Communicate Professionally

I cannot stress this enough: learn how to write emails with proper grammar, correct spelling and a high level of formality. I promise you that your coworkers will respect you for it. You will quickly disappoint your colleagues by sending them an email with glaring typos, a missing subject line (guilty as charged), or an informal tone. Sharpen your writing; emails aren’t like text messages to your friends. I know you’ve heard that before and shook your head, but I mean it.

Step 3: Volunteer to Help

Offer to help when you hear about new projects in your department, especially when it gives you a chance to show off a skill you have or to learn more about something. Also, offer to help out coworkers who have a lot of projects on their plate. Taking initiative could pay off huge for you in the long run, especially if you work hard and perform well.

Step 4: Ask Questions

If at any time you don’t know what you are doing, ask questions. It is better to admit that you are confused or don’t know something than to make a huge mistake that could cost you. At the same time, though, challenge yourself to figure things out on your own. Figure out what you can do, and then ask questions when you can’t make it any further. People want to help you learn; they don’t want to see you fail. You are there to learn, so ask questions. Don’t let fear, self-consciousness or anxiety hold you back from doing your job well.

rRachel Brown is a first-year graduate student. She is pursuing a Master of Public Health with a concentration in Professional Health Education. Rachel loves sharing her passion for health and wellness with others, traveling to new places, and enjoying a good meal.

By Kim Ecenbarger
Kim Ecenbarger SPH Senior Associate Director Kim Ecenbarger