NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Congratulations! Getting your summer internship was a monumental accomplishment.
You beat the odds and edged out just about everyone else to receive the offer. You most likely will be working with other equally smart and ambitious students whose goal, like yours, is to be offered a full-time position when you graduate.
Don't screw it up. If you want an offer or even just a terrific reference you will need to work hard, be smart but not obnoxious, and engage in occasional political maneuvering.
Bear in mind that you are at the very bottom of the food chain this summer. Everyone, including the administrative assistant, is senior to you. So if any of them tell you to jump, you'd better ask, "How high?" if you want to score points. There is no room for attitude or entitlement unless you have a death wish.
It would be great if you had the freedom to dabble openly -- and use the summer experience to determine whether you like the role, the company and the industry. But that ability to experiment without penalty has virtually disappeared. There is far too much riding on how you execute.
If you don't get an offer at the end of the summer, other companies will ask why and express concern. It is a recruiting Catch 22 -- you are hoping for an offer but that offer will lock you in or insist on a hard deadline to accept. And if you end up without an offer -- they dump you -- you are viewed as less desirable by competing companies.
So, for now, keep your self doubts and unwillingness to commit to yourself. Share them only with family, friends and close advisers, not your work colleagues this summer!
Here you go. Seven tips to succeed as an intern:
1. Call or email the person who will be overseeing you and tell him or her that you are hoping to get a head start. That person is either your manager for the summer or the internship coordinator. Ask whether there is anything you can prepare, read or research in advance. Or, if there is an important transaction about to happen, offer to begin the internship early.
2. Don't show off. It's unappreciated, makes you look like you're kissing up, and will ultimately undermine your credibility with both your manager and your peers. No one likes working with a brown-nose. The best way to distinguish yourself is to work hard, stay late, spend time with key decision makers and don't complain.
3. In terms of visibility, if you're asked to make a presentation, make sure you're thoroughly prepared. It's important to rehearse, too, and to anticipate any potential pushback or challenges. You may be a pro at winging it, but every so often everyone screws up.
4. Ask junior associates what management looks for in those interns who get offers for permanent positions. That's valuable information. Also ask them to provide regular feedback during the summer so that you know you're on track. And please be sure to express your gratitude. Far too often, undergrads and MBA students are viewed as self-serving. Don't reinforce that impression.
5. Participate in office events -- outings, drinks, races, off-sites -- but only if invited. If you are asked to join in, don't be reckless. The equity you create through a summer of hard work could evaporate instantly if you drink too much and get sloppy.
6. Make friends with the undergrad or MBA recruiting team. Their endorsement and advocacy will go a long way when decisions are made regarding offers to extend. They'll also advise you on appropriate behavior and facilitate meetings with key managers.
7. Don't ask a lot of questions. Instead ask the right questions. It's easy to cross over from being well-informed and inquisitive to annoying and a pest. Think about what you need to know and why. Then make sure to identify who the appropriate resources are to turn to.