Even in a dismal economy, young men and women greatly increase their chance for post-college prosperity when they complete an internship. The potential for success is multiplied when the intern makes a conscious effort to learn and thrive in a new environment. This approach distinguishes the intern as much more than a “lowest-rung worker,” and he or she will ultimately earn the respect of co-workers and upper management.

The University of California-Berkeley Career Center (UCBCC) stresses strong communication, both verbal and written, as a key first step toward intern success. The initial transition period should be filled with questions, so that the intern may understand daily work life at that particular office. Regular meetings with the supervisor will not only ensure expectations are being met on both sides, but also allow the intern to hear critical feedback that can benefit future projects. An interactive rapport should also be established with other employees, especially those who work directly with the intern. Language should always be professional, and written work must be thoroughly proofread in order to make a strong first impression.

In addition to work-related matters, new interns must acclimate to their office’s particular dynamic and be highly observant during the beginning stages. They should ask the proper authorities about appropriate behavior at the work place, since each office has a unique set of expectations for employee conduct and interaction, from dress code and grooming to personal phone calls. The sooner these standards are learned, the more comfortable the intern will feel in their new surroundings. If the workplace policies aren’t clear or the intern isn’t sure whom to ask, a resource for getting an accredited online doctorate suggests students should try visiting the career services department at their respective schools. Not only do these folks have plenty of information about getting a job, but they also provide advice on how to act once you land one.

Negative interaction, such as gossip, complaints about co-workers and obscene language, should be strictly avoided at all times. Interns should have a friendly relationship with co-workers, but should also know when to walk away from a conversation.

Unfortunately, some interns may run into negative attitudes generated toward them by permanent employees. Experts advise prospective interns to prepare for work duties that may seem undesirable, but that should not come at the cost of workplace respect and courtesy. If a co-worker verbally abuses, intimidates or otherwise disturbs an intern, he or she has the right to report the offender without incurring negative consequences. However, an equally effective way to combat mistreatment may be for the intern to simply ignore the unfriendly co-worker’s attitude and focus on effectively completing the task at hand. An intern’s strong work performance can silence even the harshest critic.

Besides preparing for the worst, Forbes.com urges interns to brush up on new forms of media. The typical internship workload is balanced between professional assignments and projects related to the individual’s field of study and clerical duties that higher-level employees would rather not do. Interns are often expected to be familiar with many different media and software programs, so it certainly behooves them to be a little tech-savvy. In addition to standard platforms like Microsoft Office, interns should be familiar with social media, search engine optimization and programming codes, even if the job description does not explicitly require these proficiencies. “More important than using social sites for personal reasons, you’ll need to understand why [new media is] relevant to your industry and company,” writes Forbes contributor and NYC-based mobile marketing consultant, Michael Matthews.

If an intern is perceived as knowledgeable in these areas, he or she may be asked to teach permanent employees about technology and new media. This sort of information sharing presents the intern with a rare opportunity to impress his or her company’s senior staff—and such an invitation should be taken seriously. Matthews suggests rehearsing the tutorial with friends or family members to practice using the terminology and demonstrating techniques. When the session is finished, the intern (and the mock pupils, if they are willing) should make notes of the experience. This allows the intern to feel comfortable and confident when he or she actually sits down with senior management—and one positive experience can spawn many more. “As you prove yourself in the workplace, you will become a sought after intern because of your ability to listen, apply and communicate with your future boss,” Matthews writes. “And that same boss will invest in you because you’ve already put in the work to invest in them.”

Ultimately, internships are most effective when the individual is proactive, professional and communicative with his or her co-workers. The student who approaches an internship as real employment, and not some sort of “practice job,” is more likely to receive a paid offer once the appointment is finished. Given the disheartening post-college employment statistics faced by many young Americans, intimate knowledge of the internship process has never been more fundamental.