3 Things I Learned from My 3 Internships

These days, the best thing a youngster can do to gain experience in a field and up their resume game is to embark on an internship. I remember that when I went into my first internship, I had no idea what to expect and was scared for the worst. Frightened, 16-year-old me thought I’d end up running around doing menial errands for people and not having a meaningful experience to grow from. (This wasn’t the case, thankfully.) Here's what I learned during my time as an intern:

1. You won’t necessarily love your internship

Whether you’re going into your new internship with more than one under your belt or you’re a newbie, you probably won’t love it too much. I’m not trying to be pessimistic—I’m just being honest! Interns naturally start from the bottom of the work pyramid and are left to do the jobs nobody else wants to do. It makes sense because internships are designed for those starting their careers. So if you end up not liking your job, it’s only normal and you’re not alone! Odds are, time will help you to get into a groove.

In addition, many internships are unfortunately not paid. Somehow, the world expects us to work without pay while in college so we can gain experience while still having to go to classes and pay for tuition. So if you end up not getting paid, you’re surely not alone. The hope is that this unpaid opportunity will boost you up to an even better, paid one in the future.

Once the internship is coming to a close, do your best to leave on good terms. Sure, you might not have loved your boss and the tasks they made you do. Maybe you didn’t fit into the political scene there. Either way, you still want to ensure that you leave on a good note so that people at that job won’t have a problem writing recommendations or being references for you.

2. Be a sponge—soak everything in

I would say it’s best to intern in a field you’re interested in, because that’s the only way you can test the waters and see if you could picture yourself making a career in that field. Do not, however, be fooled into thinking that 30-year-old-you will be doing the same jobs intern-you is doing! Interning is a great way to explore and learn, but you will doing very different jobs if you actually go into the field. You’ll be higher up in the pyramid and perhaps have your own intern!

The important aspect is you learn during your time there (as long as you’re treated fairly, of course). Whether you end up going into the field you interned for or not, it will help you along your path to your future career. Thus, if you’re loving your internship or not, make sure you take everything in. Take notes on everything, ask questions and keep whatever papers you have from the job—don’t throw them out. Although they might not seem important right now, they might be in the future.

Remember that many employers choose to have interns because they enjoy mentoring and genuinely want to share with young people to help them gain experience and grow. If you get this vibe from your employer, then it’d be a very good idea to take advantage and learn as much as possible. Also, take note of the exact day you started and ended your internship—many future employers will ask for this information.

3. Network, network, network!

Whether you like the experience or not, take every opportunity to network with the people there. If someone offers you their email address, take it. If you’re offered to come back again, say you’ll consider it (even if you really wouldn’t). Doing this makes sure that you have a connection to further experiences and internships. For example, maybe someone with whom you exchanged email addresses moved on to a different job, and maybe they’ll contact you about an open intern position there. Or maybe a past employer for your internship will hire you full-time in the future. You never know the future opportunities that are waiting for you when you keep connections open!

Before you finish your internship, it would be a good idea to ask your employer or the people you work with for the best way to format your roles from the job into the resume. Often, they'll be willing to help you out with this and can give you the best way to phrase everything. Since you worked hard at your internship, you should make sure you get the proper credit for it!

An internship is a complicated thing. Although I’m no expert, I don’t think it takes one to say this. From my own three internship experiences, I’ve learned that there’s a lot involved and a lot to take into consideration. I’ve had luck with accepting that I might not love an internship, doing my best to soak everything in and networking!