Make the Most of Your Internship

Hello, my name is Kait and I don’t feel like a student anymore.


I’m currently completing my first Big Boy Internship at an advertising agency in my city. My experience working there has been wonderful so far, but it’s still taken a while to adjust.


I really feel like I’m leading a double life. Workforce adult by morning, college student by night. Half big business lady purse, half hefty waterproof backpack with zippered pen compartment. I’m like Hannah Montana but boring.




How do you make the most of this transitional stage, as a butterfly in a business casual cocoon? Here’s what I’ve learned so far:


Ask questions!

Nobody expects you to know everything. And you aren’t going to know anything unless you get clarity. Your supervisors will appreciate that you’re dedicated to your tasks enough to stay engaged with the ins and outs. This means you can and should ask questions. Ask why your employer does things the way they do! Ask how your supervisors got to be where they are! Ask where the bathroom is! Ask, ask, ask!



Speak up in meetings!

Obviously, read the situation first. But as an intern, you’re part of the team. Even if it gets shut down, your opinion is valuable. (And if your meetings are full of super fun individuals like mine are, feel free to get in on the jokes. Even if nobody laughs. That teaches you how to face rejection, and that’s as important as anything else you’ll learn on the job.)



Make connections!

Connect with everyone you work with on LinkedIn. And in person. Talk career with them. Talk about your goals and your interests. There are people who are more than happy to help you work through those kind of thought processes- they’ve been there too. I am lucky enough to work for some great professionals who encourage me to come up to their desk or into their office when I want to have a work chat, life chat, or combination of the two. Chances are, if you’re at a place that’s taking interns, you’ll find those people too.



Make friends!

Here’s a seemingly obvious pro tip I wouldn’t have thought of until I lived it myself: if there are people who were recently hired on post-college, befriend them. They relate to your plight, having just gone through it a couple years ago. Plus, they’ll be who you’re working with in the field with the longest. Try to go to lunch with people. Pop into conversations if you have something to say. Don’t wait to be invited. It isn’t as weird as you think it is.



Take advantage of your resources!

Does your office have a printer? Print stuff! Do you have a desk? Bring some stuff to decorate it! Does it have a fridge with LaCroix in it? Drink the LaCroix! You’re entitled to live the corporate culture too.


(Actual footage of me drinking countless Diet Cokes from the vending machine)


Keep your work and school life separate…

Unless I have a serious deadline, I try to leave my work laptop at work so I can focus on school things. I also try to not answer school e-mails at work. (I’m not nearly as successful at this objective. But I’m working on it.)


...but bridge the gap sometimes.

Sometimes things you learn at your internship will apply in class. It’s like when you’re learning a foreign language and immerse yourself with native speakers to become more fluent. You’re becoming more fluent in the language of the working world and your career goals. That’s gonna make you a boss in class if you let it.



Be intentional during your commute!

Sometimes my 20-minute drive to work is the best part of my day. (But I also have this weird romantic fascination with interstates, so that could be a personal thing.) I listen to a funny podcast that puts me in a good mood or a playlist that gets me in the zone so I’m ready to tackle whatever challenge is in store for me. Find a mood booster and let it help your transition from school you to work you.



Remember why you’re there!

Sometimes you feel like you’re not a productive member of the team. Like you aren’t doing what they’re paying/expecting you to do. Like no matter how hard you’re trying, you can’t do your job right.


That’s why it isn’t a job. It’s an internship. I’ll say it again: you’re there to learn!


If the place you’re working didn’t want your contributions, they wouldn’t have hired you. They wouldn’t have hired an intern at all. They would’ve just hired some guy named Mike who would sluff through your job without the youthful energy you’re bringing to the table.


If you’re worried about being a good intern, you probably are a good intern. Keep putting in that effort. You go, you.