Who should I ask?
You might think it doesn’t matter who you ask as long as your question gets answered, but it really does make a difference. “Do read the policy and procedure packet to determine if a proper chain of command exists for asking questions,” Redmond says. The rule of thumb is to use your resources before reaching out to your internship supervisor whether that resource is the Internet or the intern who works next to you. “I think this all depends on the atmosphere of your internship. I am currently an intern at a relatively small PR firm and find it easy to ask for help all the time! I work pretty closely with the Account Executive and we get along really well so I do not find a problem with speaking up,” says Alexa, a junior at JMU and HC campus correspondent.
“Last semester at Seventeen I gave myself a question-asking rule. If I didn’t know how to do something I went to my instruction manual first, then my fellow interns, and if all else failed I went to my editor. I think that questions are a big part of an internship. You are there to learn and you aren’t expected to know everything right away,” says Shaye, a senior at the Fashion Institute of Technology.
You should be looking out for your fellow interns and they should be looking out for you. It’s true, you probably want to stand out from the crowd and go above and beyond the other interns, but always be helpful and friendly so they will help you when you need it. “I intern for Miami magazine and the people there are really helpful. If I need help with anything, I ask. They understand that I'm an intern and are really patient with me. However, I also know that they can't do my job for me, so if I'm looking for the paper clips or don't know how to print on glossy paper, I'll ask one of my fellow interns or try to figure it out myself,” says Jaime, a senior at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
“I like to see interns reach out to one another. I would encourage asking a question to an intern who has been with the company for a while (semester, etc.),” Redmond says. This way, you’re still going to a more knowledgeable source but you aren’t interrupting your supervisor. But remember, don’t always trust the other interns. “When I was interning at FOX, we were assigned the task of organizing scripts and one of the other interns assumed we were supposed to organize it alphabetically but they wanted us to do it by date—don’t assume!” Berger says.
Sometimes the answer you need is right inside of you. Dig up all the information you’ve received since starting your internship or use the wonderful Internet to help you solve your problem (Google is your best friend—you want to be as resourceful as possible, whether it’s fact-checking or something as “silly” as how to change the printer cartridges.) I’m a marketing and sales intern for a children’s clothing company and am responsible for putting together a buyer’s packet. I had no idea what this was and had never done it before, so I searched online for examples and tips. My boss was very impressed with my work and I figured it out without having to ask her for help.
Use this as your last resort. It’s way better if you’re the intern who takes initiative and gets the job done on your own instead of constantly asking your boss for help. There are certain circumstances when asking your supervisor is the best option: If you think your company’s reputation is on the line or if you’re dealing with something super important like a celeb interview. Aside from keeping in mind the type of assignment you’re working on, you should also consider who is going to see your work. If the project you’re working on is going to be handed in to the CEO of the company or editor-in-chief, asking your supervisor for help is a smart idea. A smaller project like organizing your company’s address book or coming up with a press list is something you should be able to figure out on your own.
“I felt like I was pestering my supervisor a lot of the time, but she actually didn't mind the questions at all because at the end of the day, I was learning and these questions needed to be asked so we could avoid problems from creeping up,” Annie says. Berger says you should always ask your supervisor for help when you’re not 100 percent sure about something. “The internship coordinator would always rather have you bother them with a two second question than mess something up,” she says.
“I do try and figure things out for myself the first time around not only to learn but to try and make a good impression on my supervisors and show them that I can figure things out for myself!” Alexa says. Your supervisor has enough to do as is and will appreciate your ability to find the answers to some questions on your own. If you’re doubting yourself, it’s okay to check with your supervisor or another intern to see if your solution will work before implementing it.