6 Lessons Learned During My Internship
Alison shares her advice for students seeking internships.
By Alison Graham
April 17, 2013
Internships are the cherries on top of the resume sundae. They can make any student stand out to colleges, future employers, and boyfriends’ parents (just as a cherry stands out to a starving young child in a brightly colored ice cream store, or excuse me, froyo—the new trend).
Internships are quickly becoming essential for any job and can offer a lot of experience to students hoping to get ahead. But how can you get the most out of yours? Well I personally learned six, yes, six, things on my own internship experience.
1. Speak up: Many times I would be sitting at my isolated desk with endless questions about what I was supposed to be doing. I was completely paralyzed in my chair because I was too afraid to walk around or bother anyone. I rarely moved from my desk the first few weeks, but I would have been much more efficient and happier if I had gotten up, asked my questions, and got back to work.
If you need help, just ask! It’s much easier than planning out a route to your boss’s cubicle, writing out a specific dialogue, and rehearsing it ten times. (True story).
2. Take on as much as you can: In the entire two months I was at my internship working for a newspaper, I only wrote three articles. I don’t know what the normal standards are for interns at publications, but I think I could have done more. I wish I would have asked for more work and when I was asked to contribute another article, I should have said yes.
Remember that the more you do, the more you have to show for the experience when you’re looking for another internship or, gulp, a job.
3. Work hard: This is an obvious one, but don’t waste time. You’re there to work, and they didn’t have to give you this opportunity. Make the most of your time and theirs.
4. Mimic your coworkers: I do not mean to play that game and repeat everything they say just to annoy them. I mean watch how they interact, how they talk, how they dress, and their repeated habits. For example, if you notice that everyone is always on time and takes punctuality seriously, you darn well better be there at 9:00 a.m. sharp, or earlier. You can learn a lot about office etiquette procedures from the ones who have been there for twenty years.
5. Talk with your coworkers: Coworkers have a lot of experience and they have obviously made it in that particular field. Ask them how they got this far and what advice they have for you. You could learn a lot and get some great ideas.
6. Be thankful: The best thing to do is send a handwritten note thanking them for the experience and opportunity to work with them. It’ll leave them with good thoughts about you and you can most likely refer to them for a recommendation later.