June 22, 2017

How to Slay Your Internship

I started my summer internship this past Monday. I'm working as a social media marketing intern for a company headquartered just ten minutes from my apartment (totally lucked out location-wise). Even though I don't want to work explicitly in social media or marketing (unless I'm doing so for a music company or a venue or a related something), I'm building good foundational skills.

Since this isn't my first internship (it's actually my sixth) and might very well be my last since I graduate in December, I thought I could share some tricks of the trade with you, as I'm sure a lot of you are interning now or in the future. (Also, I'd like to note how easy it was writing this post. I missed this.)

+ Be willing to do anything but not everything.

If your boss asks you to make copies or address a stack of mailers, do it. If your boss asks you to make cold calls and your department is graphic design... don't do it. It isn't reasonable to ask you to do something that is way out of your scope if it was clear heading into the internship what your objectives and responsibilities would be. If you wanted to work in sales, you would have applied for a sales job and not a graphic design position, no?

Related: How to Slay Your Internship or Job Interview

Also, if someone other than your immediate supervisor asks that you do something that you don't feel is fair or part of your job description, speak with your immediate supervisor first. Being an intern doesn't make you the office scapegoat, contrary to what The Devil Wears Prada might have made you believe ;)

+ Ask for clarification.

This ties in with the previous point, but you need to make sure going into the internship (this is something you'd probably ask about in the interview stage) that you know what is expected of you and what to expect of your employer. Ask about the dress code, whether you need to bring your own laptop, and if lunch is paid. Also ask about any discrepancies in the job listing versus what your interviewer may have told you about what the position entails.

+ Offer to help.

I'm a fast learner and a quick worker and tend to complete tasks faster than expected. If that's you, too, offer to help with something else once you've finished, rather than sit at your desk waiting for your next assignment. Not only will you keep from boredom but you'll also demonstrate initiative and prioritization skills, which is great for both recommendations and potential full-time employment after the internship has ended.

+ Dress to impress.

Unless your internship dress code is explicitly casual, don't dress down. It's always better to be overdressed than underdressed. You don't have to wear heels ever day or anything (I definitely don't), but if it's business casual in an office setting, dress reasonably conservatively and you'll be fine.

+ Don't embellish what you can do.

If your boss asks you to complete a project that involves a software you've only used once, three years ago, don't tell him that you're familiar with it when he asks. What good is that going to do? You're going to waste your time and his, and it's going to be embarrassing and awkward when you report back that things aren't going well because you don't know what you're doing. Be upfront and honest when something isn't in your skill set.

+ Make yourself stand out. 

You can make yourself stand out without bringing in cookies for the entire office. Complete your projects well and on time, ask thoughtful questions, contribute to meetings, and above all, be enthusiastic. Even if you hate the internship, pretend that you like it. There's no harm in saving face, and people will remember an enthusiastic intern.

+ Connect with everyone.

That person two departments over to whom you were introduced on the first day and probably won't ever work with? Still say "good morning" or "hello" when you pass them. Bonus points if you remember their name and/or connect with them on LinkedIn. You never know who knows who and who might be willing to help you out down the line just because you were a friendly face.

How's your internship going? Any tips you have to add?

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