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Straight from the Bosses’ MouthsWhat managers say makes a great intern

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For students looking to clinch that ideal job, landing an internship can bring you closer to your goal. But securing that sought-after internship is only half the battle. Leaving a mark on the company, other interns, and key managers could mean the difference between future employment and an arduous job search.

While school career counselors, mentors, and human resource professionals can all provide useful advice on what makes an outstanding intern, there’s nothing more powerful than advice straight from the managers and executives who work with and potentially hire interns.

Team players wanted

Sure, an internship can feel more like a competition than an actual job, especially if you or your peers are hoping to make that temporary position permanent. Yet competing with your fellow interns and even colleagues, instead of working together can be the downfall of a promising experience, says Ed Welburn, vice president of global design at General Motors .

“(For some of our interns) it’s not easy for them to accept ideas from others.”

In GM’s design internship, which consists of a 10-week team project where students develop ideas and concepts for future GM vehicles, being a wallflower or dictator won’t bode well for the team’s success.

Welburn says the most memorable group of interns were able to blend ideas for a new concept for GM’s Hummer.

“The creativity was amazing. They pooled all their ideas for the interior and the exterior of the Hummer. They found out where their real strengths were and were able to play on that,” Welburn says.

Handling it alone

When Shakara Bridgers’ mother passed away, the chief operating officer of  Get ‘Em Girl Inc., along with the other managers had to leave town to attend the funeral. A lifestyle brand that houses a catering service, a series of cookbooks, and hosts events, the nucleus of the company is its Web site, which needed to be maintained while the team traveled to the funeral. That’s where the intern came in.

“Just the fact that we were able to go away and know this person could keep up the Web site made an impact,” says Bridgers.

Learning the ins and outs of a company and understanding the daily tasks can make any intern a pinch-hitter in a time of need. Though interns may second guess themselves, it’s imperative to put any fears to the side. Mangers look for leadership in their workers.

Part of the solution

A business cannot thrive on complaints. Rather, it takes solutions to create change or at least move towards progress. And solutions are exactly what Faith Taylor looks for in her interns.

“Take the effort to find out additional needs of the company,” says Taylor, worldwide vice president of sustainability and innovation at Wyndam Worldwide, a hospitality company. “Develop solutions for them. Be a self-starter.”

For many companies looking to drive the bottom line and cut costs, looking for more efficiencies allows you to become an asset. Though Taylor’s interns are responsible for developing content for Wyndam’s Green Program, one of the interns took it a step further developing a Web site for the green executive. “Work on projects that add value for the company,” Taylor says.

Putting self first

Too often interns are so concerned about how their efforts can help the company they forget to understand their personal and professional needs. But internships are called learning experiences for a reason. Don’t start a gig without writing out what you expect to gain from the job, Bridgers says. Create a goals list detailing your strengths and weaknesses, and what you hope to improve upon and learn during your tenure. Most importantly, take the time to share this goals list with your direct supervisor, ensuring you’re both in accordance.

Bridgers also recommends keeping a diary to track your progress, either daily or weekly.

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