by Colette Cunningham, PR Intern
As a college senior with three successful internships under my belt, I have definitely been through the ups and downs of #InternLife, and I’ve picked up a few tricks of the trade over the last few years. Throughout my internships I have gained first-hand experience and developed professionally, but most of all I’ve come to the realization that you never stop learning.
I compiled this “do and don’t list,” while thinking back to the first day of my first internship where I was feeling anxious and awkward. This is the list I wish I could’ve read before that day. It would have saved me from a lot of soul searching, Google searching, and deep conversations with my parents. Whether it’s the first or last day of your internship, take advantage of this list to get the most out of your internship experience.
Do be professional – This has probably made every intern do and don’t list from the beginning of time but, nevertheless, it’s important. Professionalism applies in all aspects of the workplace whether it’s interpersonal communication, email correspondence, wardrobe choice or technology usage. Avoid talking about your crazy Saturday night, emailing your boss “LOL,” or wearing that outfit that belongs in a nightclub instead of an office.
Do be a sponge and a scribe – As an intern, you’re there to learn, so sit back and listen. Be a sponge – immerse yourself in the workplace and soak in as much knowledge as possible. When you’re done soaking it all in, write it all down. During your internship, a notepad (or laptop) should be your partner in crime.
Do be flexible – As an intern, it’s important to keep an open mind and embrace the fact that every day may be a little different. Get comfortable with the idea of change and be adaptable in the face of it.
Do ask for feedback – Feedback is your friend. Whether positive or negative, feedback is the driving force of career development. Don’t be afraid to ask what you’re doing well and areas that could use improvement. It shows that you care and that you’re striving to improve. Be sure to then incorporate your feedback and work on addressing problem areas.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions – “There are no stupid questions.” While I would definitely argue that there are, in fact, stupid questions, I appreciate the sentiment behind the quote. Don’t be afraid to ask questions during your internship, whether it’s for a concept explanation, project clarification or career advice. On the other hand, be resourceful. Remember that Google is your friend and sometimes all it takes is a quick search to determine correct AP style or the date of an upcoming event.
Don’t get too comfortable – Whether you’re at an internship for six weeks or six months, don’t get too comfortable. Don’t fall into the habit of sneaking out 20 minutes early, taking extra long lunch breaks, or failing to go the extra mile. Don’t become complacent in being average. Whether you’re interested in a favorable recommendation, potential job offer, or just gaining valuable career experience, keep striving to get the most out of your internship.
Don’t burn bridges – Leave your internship on a positive note. It’s a small world, even more so in certain industries, and people talk. LinkedIn allows you to keep in touch with past employers like never before. Take advantage of your internship as an opportunity to grow your network and make valuable connections for your future.
Don’t take it for granted – Enjoy your internship and appreciate the learning experience. An internship is the ideal time to determine your strengths, weaknesses, likes and dislikes. Embrace your internship as an opportunity for growth and professional development. Also, embrace the fact that you’re not a member of the “real world,” working 9 to 5 year-round… yet.