10 Tips for your first big-girl internship
Updated: May 23, 2019
Okay, let’s talk business (literally).
Internships can be SCARY. You’re at an in-between age, you only have a few credit hours under your belt and probably in an industry you know nothing or little about. They teach you your major but they don’t teach you or tell you how different it is in every industry and at every company. Someone told me once that you go to school and learn all this stuff, only to then go to your job and have to learn exactly how to do that too, because what they teach you in school is SO different than being in the office. The same title at one company can do completely different things than the same title at another company…Ain’t that the truth!
Every company does things completely different and it takes time to get adjusted and figure everything out-but believe me you can do it and you probably will learn more in those 6-8 weeks than you can imagine.
I remember I had my first internship after my FRESHMAN year. How much do you really learn your freshman year? I think the only business class I took was econ and let me tell you- econ is valuable buuuuttt not for an internship. Being in an office environment and having to send emails to your boss or do work that actually matters can be scary. There’s a lot of pressure.
When you’re in class the work you do reflects you. When you work for a company your work reflects you but also the company. It’s important to do your best, double check your work, and have fun! Stick around for some tips on how to be successful while being a bomb intern!
1. Don’t get over whelmed
Starting your first internship can be totally overwhelming. You don’t know anyone, the office seems huge, and you aren’t exactly sure what’s going on. There were so many times I would be sitting in on meetings and taking notes rapidly and writing little stars on things I would have to Google when we were done because I had no idea what things were. They teach us so much in school, but the real work place is a whole different world and it’s going to take time to learn the pace of the company, the people, the lingo, and what exactly is expected of you. Remember you’re an intern!! Everyone knows you’re learning and will (probably) be patient with you. Which leads me to my next tip.
2. Ask Questions
Again, you’re an intern! This is the time to ask a million question and learn, learn, LEARN! No question is a dumb question but know that Google is also your friend. You shouldn’t be asking your boss every single thing you don’t understand. Just know a balance between what to ask and what to Google. But if there is ever an appropriate time to ask a question, it’s as an intern.
3. Always go above and beyond
Being an intern can lead to so many opportunities. This is your time to go above and beyond in all that you do. I promise it will not go unnoticed. People appreciate the extra effort, especially when it is coming from the bottom of the food chain. Do everything to the best of your abilities and always a little extra. Utilize any skills you’ve learned at school, because they will be fresh in your brain. Remember that a lot of the people you’re working with have been out of school for several years and you probably know more than you think. Don’t underestimate all that knowledge up there! You actually may know things your older coworkers don’t.
4. Say yes to every opportunity
Luncheon with your team? Go. Opportunity to sit in on a meeting? Go. Leftover cake in the breakroom? Go. Okay, I think you get the point. Basically, this is the time to go to anything and everything. I guarantee your schedule won’t be as jam-packed as it will be when you’re a full time employee so get out of that desk when possible and go to work events and take your coworker to lunch. Opportunities also include taking on more projects and trying new things. Even if you aren’t great at Excel, try and learn! There is no cap on the number of skills you can have-so wrack them up!
5. Make connections
Everyone loves to talk about themselves and I guarantee you many will be flattered that you asked them to meet and chat. These professionals have amazing stories! My favorite thing to ask is what was your major and how did you get here? I once talked to a guy who was a product designer what his major was (and get this) criminal justice. People have such cool pasts and hearing how they’ve climbed the corporate ladder and the advice they can give you is priceless. I’m not kidding when I say I had one-on-one meetings with probably 30+ people at my last internship. I then took their name, and wrote notes on our conversations and then sent a follow up e-mail saying thank you and mention specific things you talk about. Also make sure to send another at the end of the summer and attach your resume so they have it-just in case.
So go grab someone cool in the office and ask them to hang!
6. Don’t overthink e-mails
This seems so silly but I really used to reread my e-mails a million times and perfect them only to get a “Thanks Brittany -sent from iphone” in return. Don’t get me wrong, grammar matters and be smart, but don’t stress about the perfect subject line. Be professional but remember everyone is human! Also keep things short. You’re an intern so they may not even open your email but if you get to the point and don’t add a lot of fluff, people can scan and get the information they need from it.
7. Ask for feedback
It may be scary, but this is supposed to be a learning experience. So it’s important to see how you’re doing. This includes what you’re excelling in but also what you can improve on. It goes a long way when you can handle constructive criticism and handle it professionally and use it to improve. I’ve also had interviews where they have asked when I received criticism and how I handled it. This is not an uncommon question to receive during interviews, so get ahead of the game and be prepare with an answer for this question. If your manager doesn’t provide mid-internship meeting to discuss how you’re doing, go ahead and make the initiative to have one. They will be so impressed and will learn a lot about how you work from someone else’s eyes.
8. Be overprepared & always honest
Every company is different, but if you know you’ll be having an ending presentation- be prepared! Practice in front of other interns or your parents and make sure you have everything down pat. The more professional the better. Also, have your friends ask you questions and think of what questions you would ask if you if you were watching the presentation. The board or people looking a your presentation will most likely ask you questions so be prepared. But most importantly, if you don’t know an answer- do NOT lie. Be honest. Again, you are an intern.. so it is okay to not know everything. People respect honesty above everything.
9. Be Happy!
You probably have the least-stressful job in the entire office. It is so refreshing to have a positive face in the office especially in high stress situations. People love having a hard-working intern but also someone who does it all with a smile on their face. My boss used to call me happy bunny cause I was always so bubbly, and hey-it helps you stand out. And plus you’re getting experience, probably getting paid, and getting to meet new people-what’s there to be sad about?
10. Say “Thank You”
It literally takes 5 minutes to write an email and thank someone for taking time out of their day to talk to you. Be thankful!! No one owes you anything, so for them to give you insights or advice is huge and so helpful! Write a quick e-mail to say thank you or even a handwritten thank you at the end of your internship to your boss shows such a high level of class and respect. C’mon y’all we’re millennials and people already have a bad taste in their mouths about us-we gotta help ourselves out. Be sweet, grab a pen, and a cute thank you card and get to writing (or typing)!