During my spring internship at Dallas Market Center, I’ve learned more about the professional world than I ever could have at school. My mentors invested in me, believed and encouraged me, and I believe they’ll be a part of my life even after my internship ends.

As a senior, this experience propelled me into becoming a future professional and trained me to know what to expect when I graduate and enter the workforce. I wouldn’t trade these past few months for anything! During my time here, I was able to draft social media messages and press releases, and even got an opportunity to interview Australian chef Curtis Stone at the Total Home & Gift Market in January. Now that it’s come to a close, I look back at what I learned in my very first internship and what I would tell other students preparing to intern for the first time.

Here is my list of the top five tips for succeeding in your first internship:

1. Say hi to any and every one.
Chances are you won’t be an intern forever, and you probably won’t stay in the same place. Don’t be afraid to greet everybody you meet in the short time that you are there. Who knows, maybe you will meet your next best friend or someone who will refer you for a job in the future. If nothing else, this is an excellent opportunity to work on networking within a company. So get started and be friendly!

2. Dress how you want to be treated.
College fashion may be fun, wearing neon tank tops and leggings to class every day, but if you want to be taken seriously in the real world you have to dress for the position you want. You may think no one notices the intern, but if you dress like a CEO people will treat you with more respect and recognize your maturity. Challenge yourself to dress up, even if the place you will work at is pretty casual. You never know who or what opportunities may suddenly come your way, and it’s important to look the part.

3. Be a Yes Man/Woman.
Working as an intern gives you many opportunities to participate in a wide variety of activities. Instead of leaving work early to go hang out with your friends, be open to any new experience you can get despite what your first impression of the project is. Managers and supervisors like people they can always count on for anything.

4. Finish every job you’re given.
With college classes, students tend to do the least amount of work possible to get a good grade. It’s not so in the professional world. Even if you think your supervisor/boss will look over and revise your work, do everything you can by yourself so that you deliver the most complete project and your best work at the beginning. Remember, you can use everything you create for your own professional portfolio.

5. Accept the company’s culture as your own.
Welcome to the club. Nike has a position called an Ekin whose job is literally to know the brand backwards and forwards. Immerse yourself in the company as much as you can because as an intern, you represent the brand as much as a regular employee. Embrace the culture wherever you are, soak up everything you can, don’t be afraid to mess up, but know that this internship is only going to prepare you for future opportunities.
These are just a few tips I’ve learned so far that have truly influenced my time here at the Market Center. Internships are excellent for students to get an inside look at what it’s like to work in their desired career and receive training and hands-on experience. Although school is very important, interning is where you will learn the most and ultimately determine where you would best fit in the professional world. And don’t worry about the coffee-runner stigma of a college intern. The coffee stains WILL come out of your shirt. Just kidding! It’s only a myth.