Women At Work—7 Things My First Internship Taught Me

This past summer, I was fortunate enough to intern in technology operations for one of the biggest publishing companies for business tools and case studies. Going into my first internship, I did not know what to expect. I gained plenty of real-life experience that I can use in my post-grad career, but I also learned many skills that could help in many areas of my personal life. One of my favorite things about interning over the summer was all the unexpected ways it impacted my life. I met great people and connections, of course, but it’s the little life hacks and the surprising realizations that will stay with me as I continue to work in my field. The following is a list of seven of the most important things I learned:

  1. 1. Every small task is important, no matter how mundane it may seem.

    As an intern, I was given a lot of busywork. At first, I felt as though my work was not important, but after a few weeks, I learned that all of my small tasks were often part of a bigger project. Things such as organizing projects in Microsoft Excel, counting adapters in conference rooms, and researching applications may not have seemed critical at the time, but they all tied together and contributed significantly to departmental projects. 

  2. 2. Working for 8 hours straight can be hard to get accustomed to.

    Adapting to a 9-5 was difficult, and it was decidedly the most surprising aspect of the internship in my opinion. As a student, I was not used to waking up at 6 am every morning, packing my lunch, and then commuting to work. For most people, there comes a time in the day where you start to feel sleepy or you find yourself working slower and getting less done. Which brings me to my next point—

  3. 3. Bring a mug to drink coffee, tea, or any beverage of your choice. 

    Sipping on something during the day can be helpful in keeping you awake if you find yourself getting sleepy in the afternoon. It has been proven through many studies, such as the one in 2010 by MIT that taking a quick break to get coffee is essential to productivity. Even a short 10-minute break can lift your spirits and help you feel ready to tackle your next task.

  4. 4. Don’t be afraid to ask for more work or to do something that may be out of your area. It’s the perfect way to learn. 

    Asking for more work when I finished my previous tasks was something that I was very shy to do in the beginning. I didn’t want to be a bother to my manager, and this led to me sitting at my desk up to an hour at a time with nothing to do. Eventually, I built up the courage and asked if there was anything else I could work on in my free time. This paved the way for me to work on teams and projects that I would have not gotten the chance to work if I didn’t ask my boss for more work. 

  5. 5. Don’t eat lunch alone. It’s the perfect time to network and get to know your coworkers.

    You might not think that your older coworkers would want to spend their break eating lunch with you, but oftentimes they are more than happy to keep you company during this time. Use this opportunity to ask them about what they do, how they got there, and what they like about their job. 

  6. 6. Being the only woman in the room can be harder than you think. 

    As a woman going into a male-dominated field, I was used to being in classes where boys led the discussion and sometimes even looked down on girls who were studying alongside them. However, even that could not prepare me for being the only girl on my team and in meetings. While everyone on my team was nice to me, it was sometimes uncomfortable and intimidating to be in a room full of men who were older and a lot more experienced than I was. It took some getting used to, but after a few weeks, I was able to acclimate and become more comfortable and sociable in that environment.

  7. 7. Saying goodbye can be sad. 

    There were certainly times in my 10-week internship that I couldn’t wait for the day or week to be over. But when it was time to say goodbye for good, I found myself feeling a bit sad to be leaving the office and having to clean out my desk. It was then that it hit me that I would probably never see that office or those people again, and I realized how grateful I was for the experience and the connections I made. 

Your first internship experience can undoubtedly shape the way you think about work and influence your career goals. However, while you may learn a lot of things related to your field, you can also begin to think about how you can use your experiences at your job in other areas of your life. 


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