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Smart Interns Look Beyond Summer

"The intern is always the person people vent to because people think they are not going to be around for a long time," Alpert said. But no matter what, the intern should remain neutral.

And then there's how you look. Career counselors say dressing down is one of the most common mistakes. It may take a week or so to get a feel for office dress code, but it's always better to dress up than look too casual.

"One of the things I say about Washington is you can never be overdressed," Alpert said. "If you see someone on the subway in jeans and shorts, they must be a tourist."

Most of the time, interns should try to look and act like regular employees -- but not at office parties.

The martini-in-hand may be fashionable among executives in their thirties, but for an intern, it can look flat-out unprofessional. That's especially the case for those who have one too many, said Felicia Parks, an undergraduate business career adviser at the American University Career Center.

Talking to the press without permission and getting involved in office romances are also big no-nos, Parks said.

The push to get hired doesn't end after the internship is over. Parks advises staying in touch with employers through cordial e-mails every few months. That way, when an opening comes up, the employer will look at a former intern as a job candidate rather than "Joe What's-His-Name," who sat at the corner desk for three months.

It always helps to talk with the boss about future options, perhaps over lunch near the end of the summer or simply during the normal course of things.

Natasha Lander, a former intern at Potomac Management Resources in Alexandria, said that she and her boss. who shared an office, would casually discuss the prospect of her return.

Lander, who interned with Potomac the summer after her junior year, returned after college graduation. "I told her I loved what I was doing and that I'd come back," she said.

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