How to be a Student and a Pre-Professional

Updated: September 21, 2020

You already know how to be a student, from making new friends to pulling all-nighters before finals. But as an intern, you’ll have to transition into a functioning member of the workforce. Overnight, you become a pre-professional. To make for a smooth transition to your new role—and a great first day at your new internship—review these tips.


On campus

  • Prior to your internship, explore the various pre-professional societies on campus to decide which one is best for you. These groups are especially useful when it comes to interacting with and learning from established professionals, as they often have links to off-campus professional organizations, where you can network with leaders in your field. During your internship, you’ll have easy access to seasoned advice whenever you need it.
  • Your college hosts many interesting speakers every month. Even if you feel too busy to attend, try to make the time. You’ll be surprised how much you’ll learn about the professional world, even if it’s not directly related to your field. Additionally, many such events host a reception afterwards, where you may be able to meet the speakers (and get even get their business cards!).
  • Your career center hosts a plethora of workshops on professional behaviors, how to dress, and more. Attend as many as possible to give yourself a head start!
  • Some schools have mentor programs through the alumni network, where you’re matched with a seasoned professional, who will guide and advise throughout your academic career. Other schools have mentor programs that pair freshmen or sophomores with upperclassmen to help them navigate campus life and the world beyond.


At the office

  • With so many new projects, people, and insights, carry a notebook everywhere you go and take copious notes. You’ll be glad you did so in the midst of a confusing assignment, when you can easily flip back to your notes and understand what to do next or whom to ask for advice.
  • After a meeting, review your notes and follow up with questions or clarifications ASAP. Set up additional check-ins as needed and confirm your role in the project.
  • Just as you speak and listen carefully and respectfully in an interview, you need to communicate skillfully at your internship to be seen as a consummate professional. A few quick tips: Never interrupt, always follow up, and always ask thoughtful questions. Say please and thank you, keep everyone apprised of your schedule, and pay attention at meetings—you never know when someone will call on you.
  • Stay up to date on industry trends. You can always squeeze in some reading time on your commute or during your lunch break. Select a few publications, such as the New York Timesor Wall Street Journal, and read up on relevant content. You can also spend 30 minutes a week in the library, browsing professional publications or journals.