How to Take Advantage of Your Internship
1. Be there first
At most internships, especially those that take place in the summer, the company or organization will have several interns for a particular time period. If possible, arrive a week or so before the other interns. First, you will get more individual attention in the beginning and consequently can establish yourself as the "favorite" intern.
Second, you may be able to get the first pick of the assignments. Third, you may get the first pick of the desks, or wherever they will seat you. Employing this rule to its extremes, interns have been known to use this seemingly simple technique to get the later-arriving interns to become their "pseudo-interns"--farming out menial tasks to them so they can concentrate on more substantive work.
2. Look around
Once you get inside a company, you should not feel restrained by the department that you're working in--or even to your assigned supervisor. Figure out what you most want to do in the organization and schmooze the person who does it. A good way to do this is to ask them to lunch. A good line is: "I'm trying to absorb as much information as I can in this internship, and what you do seems particular interesting. I wonder if you are available for lunch anytime this week." They will almost always say "Yes." When they describe what they do at lunch, try to relate the skills that they employ to skills that you have. For example, if they tell you about the press release they are writing for company X, slip in how that's similar to your college newspaper writing experience. Hopefully, they will then offer you a chance to draft a press release.
If not, try to give them another nudge, but make it gently. "Oh, writing press releases seems like so much fun!" you can add, or something to that effect.
3. Never complain
When you are given menial errands to do, take it in good cheer. No one likes a whiner. If you feel like you must say something, couch it in humor. One State Department intern remembers telling his boss: "Although being a deputy assistant Secretary of photocopying has its moments, I was wondering if I could do more substantive work here." It got his message across--and worked. Remember: As long as you do a few things that look impressive, you won't have to put on your resume that for 99 percent of the time you ran errands and photocopied stuff. So instead of complaining about your menial tasks--or even non-verbally complaining by acting dour--express an interest in doing substantive work, and be specific as possible. Specificity shows interest.