How To: Intern
Internships can be both exciting and daunting, as you are eager to do a great job and make a good impression! After spending several months interning, here is some advice I have for making the most out of the experience.
Listen to everything
You may have thought eavesdropping was something you did when your neighbors start arguing a little too loudly, but it’s actually a useful tool for the office!
When you’re an intern, you often get some sort of introduction to the company, the clients and the work you are required to do. However, it always takes a little longer to become fully acquainted with the ins and outs of the business, mainly because other people in the office, as helpful as they can be, will not always have the time to explain every tiny thing that goes on.
Eavesdropping is therefore an effective method for picking up these little bits of the puzzle yourself, whilst saving the valuable time of your managers! Another useful result of listening to and learning about what’s going on around you is that you can anticipate the needs of your colleagues. Everyone loves an intern who volunteers to help out with tasks that have not yet been asked of them, and who understands the bigger purpose these tasks serve to the office engine.
You are there for a reason, don’t be afraid to speak up
A lot of interns get trapped by their insecurity that they are undeserving to be there. You can find yourself tiptoeing around situations and trying not to be too bold or to overstep possible boundaries. Although being an intern does mean at times being the least experienced person in the room, the path to many internships involves an application process not entirely dissimilar from that of an entry-level job. That means that they chose you from the pool of candidates because they saw potential in you. It’s important to get into the mindset that you are there for a reason and that your opinion can be helpful. Additionally, although you may not have years of experience, there are some areas where you may have expertise that others lack, so don’t be afraid to offer up that expertise.
Confidence is an important trait in making your voice heard and showing your colleagues that you can contribute too. While you might not always hit the nail on the head, the times you do will make you stand out as someone that brings something to the table. The times you don’t have the winning idea, it shows that you’re willing to at least try and are eager to take on challenges.
Don’t hold back
In the same vein, you should make sure you ask to learn more about things that strike your interest or things you don’t understand, and ask to take on greater responsibility. Willingness and confidence are two key indicators of someone who has potential to excel in the workplace. Of course you should remain unassuming and avoid becoming arrogant, but merely asking to try new things that may be above your usual level can be beneficial. In the best case scenario, you get a chance to prove your skills on a higher level and try something potentially more interesting. In the worst case, they say no. They are not going to be mad at you for asking, they’ll simply say no and move on. Even if the opportunity is not there that time, if it comes up in the future they will know what you are interested in trying.
Don’t judge a book by its cover, don’t judge a job by its admin
Naturally, being an intern comes with some mundane tasks, but it’s important not to misinterpret that as what you’ll be doing forever.
Sure, there’s the occasional scan, and you might have to create a few nasty excel sheets, but I promise it’s nothing to moan about. These tasks, aside from a few coffee runs, are the building blocks to understanding the big picture of the job you do. Everyone in the office had to start somewhere, and odds are most of them had to go through the same thing.
More importantly, the little tasks that form a large pile on your desk won’t be your only responsibility forever. Take each of these tasks as if it is vital to the entire company, and master them until you are proud of your efficiency and quality in churning out the admin. The purpose of this is actually to show your superiors that you can be trusted, and that you understand no task is unimportant. The small jobs form the foundation that supports the higher level work that needs to be done, so your role is essential in keeping the engine running. Proving your positive attitude and serious approach to work is what will land you those higher profile tasks. If you quit too early, you might miss out on the most exciting parts of the job!
It’s not only about trying to get them to hire you and see you as a good fit for the company – it’s about seeing if the company is a good fit for you too and if it is what you want.
When you’re zeroed in on getting that job offer at the end, you can forget about the other factors at play. Just as I urge you to speak up and get involved, being yourself is also a necessary part of the process. If you come to work every day and have to act like someone you’re not or feel like you don’t fit in with the company culture, then it’s not a job you want. Some companies that are great and interns who very skilled can be a mismatch, and that’s okay. The purpose of the internship goes both ways; seeing if they like you and if you like them. You don’t want to hold back your personality over the course of the internship only to secure the job and then find out you don’t want to be there. It’s best to be yourself and find out early on if the company is the one for you.
On that note, an element that is usually overlooked is humor. Don’t be afraid to have a laugh sometimes - everyone in the office will appreciate it! It’s not about cracking jokes every other minute, but the days can get long and a sense of humor is part of staying sane! It’s also a great way to show a bit more of your personality and to become more comfortable with your colleagues, making the job more engaging and enjoyable. You may even develop a nickname, although it might not be as good as mine: “Food Tyrant.”
Get out there and get interning!
The crucial message to remember is that you get out of your internship what you put into it; so it’s all about embracing the opportunities you have. An internship is the first step in your career, which is an important and equally exciting time. I hope this advice helps shed light on the things that are not in the job description and triggers your enthusiasm for the experiences that lie ahead.
Now, get out there and nail that internship!