If you have been following me on Twitter this semester, you’ll notice my #internlife tweets have increased significantly. Why? Because I actually enjoy what I’m doing this semester. But why should a student intern at all? Sure, the degree plan for some course catalogs state that we have to intern in order to even graduate or those around you are constantly telling you that an internship is necessary in order to acquire a job. Well, as someone who has interned at four different companies/organizations and entering my fifth this summer, I can tell you I’ve learned my fair share of lessons from interning.
They’re watching you.
If you think landing an internship means you’re the best of the best and you have nothing else to prove, I’m going to proceed to laugh at you – loudly and obnoxiously. I apologize for being rude, but seriously, landing an internship means you’re a good candidate and the company thinks you’re a good fit. However, you still have a lot to prove. Contrary to popular belief, everyone in the office is watching you. Don’t think just because you’re an intern that your work goes unnoticed, so make sure it’s great work. Whether it’s writing a simple press release to be put on a wire source or cleaning the office – do it well.
It’s not always glamorous.
Sure I’ve worked for companies where lunch is catered is free movie tickets are involved, but it’s not always fun and games. I’ve had to wash dishes, clean the office, vacuum, and a whole lot of other tasks that are far from fun and pretty. I have this theory that if you can do this basic chores well and do it without complaining, your supervisors will trust you with more important tasks. How can they trust you sitting in on a client meeting and presenting information when you can’t even take out the trash without rolling your eyes? Suck it up, princess.
You are part of a team.
Yes, you are an intern and you are at the bottom of the leadership ladder, but that does not mean you aren’t allowed to speak up once in a while. From my past experiences, I’ve learned that my supervisors actually like when I contribute to the team. If you can sit in during meetings and learn, then do it. They hired you for a reason; they want a new and innovative opinion on the subject matter – give them one. Which brings me to another point, if you are interning at an office where you aren’t included as a member of the team, you’re probably going to be really unhappy.
At the end of the day, it’s all about the fit. Never intern for a company that doesn’t promote growth and have a great company culture. I don’t care if they’re offering you a large hourly wage – you’ll be unhappy in the long-run. Trust me, I learned this the hard way.
I don’t volunteer at a soup kitchen every week or donate a portion of my paycheck to a charity, I admit to that. However, when choosing a company, I admire companies that actually take into consideration their influence on the community. If a CEO or founder runs the company successful while sitting on the board of a non-profit organization, my respect for the company as a whole increases significantly.
Internships are a learning opportunity for you to discover if this is your “calling” and you’ll discover what you like, what you don’t like, what kind of team/personality types you work well with and whether this is an industry where you will find your future career, or just another 9:00 – 5:00. Have fun with it, learn your co-workers names and their likes/dislikes. Build relationships because you never know when you’re going to have to call on these people again – from a recommendation for a future job or just someone worth knowing to grab coffee with – get to know your team.