Hi all, I’m Kevin Riffitts and this summer I was a social media intern with The Rose Group, a restaurant franchisee. Instead of educating you all about the finer points of restaurant social media (“what’s the best way to sell the sizzle and the steak?”), I thought I would assess this internship and others to put together a little how to guide for current and future interns on how to have the most productive internship possible. Some of these are things I’ve done and others are things that I wish I did. Hopefully, you can learn from my experiences and have the most productive internship possible.

Congratulations! You got that internship! But you might thinking to yourself “now what? I wish there were four surefire tips that would ensure I have a productive internship.” Lucky you, you’ve found my post! After you get back from the mall with your new smart casual wardrobe, do these four things to make your internship the best it can be.

  • Be prepared.

There will likely be some kind of introductory orientation type thing on your fist day where you get settled, make introductions, set up your work space and so on. While you might get some cool swag (thumbtacks! a staple remover!) you should also bring some supplies of your own, not limited to: writing tools, a notebook, a folder, a USB drive, and of course bring anything with which your new employer asked you to arrive. This way you’ll be able to take notes during your orientation and write down anything important that your boss or human resources tells you (like how to make sure you get paid) and have a place to keep anything important that’s handed to you (like documents that reference how to make sure you get paid). You don’t have to pack an entire OfficeMax, just stuff you think you might need within reach at a moment’s notice. If nothing else, you’ll seem as prepared as a Boy Scout, even if you’re a few merit badges short.

  •  When in doubt, Google it.

Ah Google…our old friend that suggests the proper spelling of “Hors d’oeuvre” and can tell us who the second small forward taken in the 2005 NBA draft. Despite being able to find the “best pizza open now near me,” remember that Google is also a powerful tool that you can use to be productive at work. At your internship your coworkers might not have the time or energy to explain to you what exactly a gap analysis is, how a pivot table works, or the finer points of retouching photos, which is where our all-knowing Internet friend comes in. When you have a problem or a task you’re unfamiliar with, don’t be afraid to let Google help out. You’d be surprised how many how to guides are out there about also every subject. Even if you don’t end up finding out the answer and have to ask for help, you’ll be better informed about the information surrounding the process on which you need clarification.

  • Keep a diary.

Besides being a place to write down what exactly you had for lunch for weeks at a time, an internship diary can be useful to you in other ways after your internship ends. Keeping an internship diary will remind you what you accomplished during your internship. At the end of your internship you might have trouble coming up with completed tasks or skills and tasks that you could put on your resume or easily describe to prospective future employers. Just take a look back at your diary and I’ll bet you’ll be able to find something that you added to your skillset. Even if all you did was answer emails during your internship, I bet you found better and more efficient ways to communicate as you went along. You can add that to your resume under a bullet like “facilitated and improved communication between departments” or “engaged with consumers in troubleshooting procedures to resolve customer service issues.” Then, when somebody asks you what exactly that means you can respond with an anecdote how you were doggedly determined to solve a problem by getting the best response from the right people and never resting until your question was answered.

  • Think critically about your time.

Your internship dairy will not only help you remember what you accomplished but can also give ideas about what you should pursue in the future. Internships are great for the companies that offer them to train a new crop of potential workers, but internships are also valuable for interns because it gives them exposure to a variety of things they wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to experience. When looking back at your diary you might notice a skill that you lacked, a task you enjoyed, or an assignment that you dreaded. All these experiences are valuable in their own ways and can help you determine where you would like to be in the future. If your favorite part of your internship was brainstorming ideas with the rest of the team, you’ll want to look for opportunities and job descriptions that have a lot of teamwork involved. If you preferred quiet time to design or solve problems then you’ll want to look for opportunities that involve a little less social interaction. Internships are great places to gain a little experience in a multitude of things. Figuring out exactly what kind of job or career you want to pursue can be tricky, but if you closely evaluate your internship, I bet you can find some clues.