Standing Out as a Professional Intern

By Perry Elyaderani

When you begin your internship, you’ll immediately get a sense for how much, or how little, interns matter in that workplace. If there are only a couple of interns in your department, you’ll get more attention, which can be both a blessing and a curse. If there are a lot, you can find yourself competing for attention. Both present their unique challenges, but standing out as a professional intern is surprisingly easy, even in an extremely competitive environment.

First, dress appropriately. As a general rule, dressing one half-step to one step above what is expected is best. If your place is casual, dress business casual. If it’s business, you probably don’t need to pack a suit, but try to accessorize up a bit. It seems trivial, but dressing up is a large chunk of how people see you as an intern. I was interning at a news station over the summer, and a reporter said, “I need an intern like you.” Later, I learned it had nothing to do with my ability; rather, he said it was because I was the only one who showed up in a tie and a tie clip every day, ready to be sent out. Dressing up every day will immediately set you above most other interns. Strange, but true.

Secondly, stay humble. You’ll be surprised how many interns are expressively annoyed around their bosses. DON’T DO THIS. It sounds ridiculous, but always asking for more work, always seeming thrilled about the worst jobs, and never acting as if you’re above any task will make you stand out significantly. Everyone is assigned grunt work. If you stay positive, your boss will notice. Then, you can steadily inquire about the work you really want to do.

Thirdly, be professional with your employers. When you email any employee, use courtesy titles and last names. Don’t use their first name unless they have given you permission to do so.

Lastly, write handwritten, personalized thank you cards to everyone you’ve had a conversation. It’s brutally time-consuming to individualize these, but it really makes you stand out. Bonus points if you throw your business card in there. Seriously.

Interning, especially when you’re subconsciously competing with other interns for attention, can be intimidating. But by dressing well, never complaining, and conducting yourself professionally, you’ll be surprised how much you stand out.


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