Five Things I Learned From My First Summer Internship

I celebrated the end of summer by watching a low-quality rom com on Netflix (as one does). If you haven’t seen The Last Summer, which chronicles the lives of various teenagers during their last summer before college, well, you really aren’t missing anything. The biggest take away is that yet again Hollywood portrays eighteen-year-olds as literal adults who are producing films for festivals and maintaining a solid relationship for two years. Sorry, but what? 

I apologize for this rant that seems kind of irrelevant to this article, but I will make my point, don’t worry. One character, Erin played by Halston Sage, is a summer intern for a prestigious company. Her tasks include taking coffee orders, delivering said coffee to staff meetings, and that’s kind of it. This is sad and problematic all its own (Erin is clearly an overachieving woman who can handle more than ordering a soy latte with a triple shot of espresso with cinnamon). Erin’s internship made me reflect on my own summer internship. I may not have been taking coffee orders, but it wasn’t perfect either. I am here to tell you that a perfect internship doesn’t exist and that is OKAY. Regardless, there are still plenty of career realities you can learn through an internship

  1. 1. Managing a Nine-to-Five Job

    Prior to my summer internship, my jobs did not follow a consistent time for each shift. Getting up at 6:15 AM to make a 7:30 train to arrive at the office before 9:00 and then not returning home until 6:15 or later was quite an adjustment. I suddenly had so much respect for my mom who worked a nine-to-five job while raising me. I honestly do not know how parents are able to go to work, maintain a functioning household, take care of their kids, and still find time to workout. I would return home sweaty and greasy from the train station air and instead of going on a run like I promised myself I would do, I layed on my bed and scrolled through my Instagram feed.

    What I began to understand was that working is tiring, even if you are just sitting at a desk for the majority of your day. Instead of expecting to go to work and the gym, it is more helpful to scatter these activities throughout the week. Accept that you can’t do everything in one day, you are only human! If you are worried about getting in a workout or spending time with friends and family, I recommend writing out your week’s schedule so you can make sure to designate time for each activity. 

  2. 2. Demystifying Word, Excel, and Outlook

    My biggest question for the workforce is when will people start using Google Docs instead of Microsoft Office and Outlook. Is it more professional-looking or something? I don’t know, but I think you can tell that I am team Google and most companies rely on Microsoft. An internship is the perfect time to experiment with these programs and learn more about their functions so that  you are more prepared for your first job out of college. I was fortunate enough to have one of my co-workers sit down with the interns to go over some basic functions of Outlook and Word, but he recommended taking time during down moments throughout the day to fiddle around with new features and watch tutorials on YouTube. Everytime you learn a new function, try to incorporate it into your daily workflow so that it becomes more natural. You might even incorporate these new tech skills into your workflow in college!

  3. 3. Office Etiquette, from What to Wear to Sending Emails

    For some reason unknown to stylist researchers, most blouses revolt me. Given that, I was a complete amateur when it came to laying out work-appropriate outfits. The first blazer I bought made me feel so professional and chic that I entered work feeling so confident that the following million mistakes I made throughout the day didn’t hurt my self esteem as much. 

    I learned that you can still have fun with work clothes, which is important to me because I really didn’t want to follow everyone else and wear boring black blazers and slacks. That being said, you still need to keep in mind the atmosphere which you are working in and remember that the workplace is not the same as a #darty. 

    Office etiquette goes beyond clothes and reaches saying hi to co-workers in the elevator, using appropriate language when sending emails to your supervisors (always begin the email with “Dear” for the first email!), and writing handwritten thank you notes to your team at the end of your internship. If you follow all of these, you will excel at your internship even if you feel like a colossal embarrassment to the company.

  4. 4. How to Meal-Prep to Save Money

    I couldn’t refrain from including a part about food in this article (even if it doesn’t seem relevant at first glance). I will be honest when I say that I will typically get up a little earlier in the morning so that I have time to make myself a pot of coffee and eat a decent breakfast before heading to work. However, eating breakfast at home and packing a lunch saves a significant amount of money by the end of the summer. I would often meal prep on Sundays, whether that meant making a pot of quinoa to add into my salads or buying sandwich items, so that I would have plenty of options ready to go for the work week. Making your own lunch is also helpful if you follow particular dietary restrictions that may not be accommodated in the company’s cafeteria or nearby cafe and restaurant offerings.

  5. 5. Any internship is helpful, even if it is in a field you are not passionate about

    The most important lesson that I learned from my internship is that any internship is a beneficial one. You do not need to love every single moment of it and you can wonder whether this is the actual field you want to pursue. These thoughts are important in regards to the growing process during college and figuring out what you want to do post-grad. No matter if you work behind a counter, at a clothing store, or in a fancy office, you will learn important skills that will make you a qualified applicant for your feature jobs and careers. Don’t ever feel like you aren’t enough; just because someone is posting about how amazingly spectacular their internship is doesn’t mean they are actually happy. Social media glosses over the realities of life and it is crucial to remember this, especially in the pivotal moments of your life.