5 Things I Learned During My Internship

One of the most well-known and often feared aspects of the college experience is the dreaded internship. The thought of making coffee runs and picking up your boss’s dry cleaning can instill fear into the hearts of even the most ambitious of students. But fear not, fellow undergrads! In truth, internships can be one of the most educational and powerful experiences in college. Personally, my internship completely changed the way that I view the professional world and my career path. There was never a dull day, and I walked away having learned some of the most valuable lessons about life in an office after college.

1. Despite being an intern, the team valued my work.

During my internship, I wrote press releases, blog posts for their website, and did a whole lot of video editing. Because I was working with a nonprofit organization, they didn’t have the time or resources to spare to complete those projects themselves. Having someone like me come in and do it for them for college credit made all the difference in their workload.

 

While those tasks may have seemed routine and somewhat simple to me, for the team, it took immense pressure off of their workload and allowed them to continue to work towards benefitting the nonprofit’s cause. It truly felt every day like I was making their lives easier whilst simultaneously gaining invaluable experience.

 

2. Advocating for yourself in a professional setting is key.

There were many make-or-break moments during my internship that were defined by whether or not I asked for help when I needed it. Asking for help or clarifying directions is always a good idea, no matter how eager you are to impress your supervisor. It can be intimidating to ask questions of a new boss for fear of looking dumb or unqualified, but that fear is often unfounded.

 

Communicating with your supervisor proves that you are responsible and are able to ask for help when you need it. It can be terrifying to walk up to your supervisor and admit you don’t know something or that you need help, but doing so can change the outcome of your project. More than once, I learned the hard way that you can save time and energy by being brave and asking for help, despite how intimidating it might feel.

 

3. Working in an office setting with people that are working in my future field was incredibly impactful.

This may be the most powerful lesson from my internship. While I do have experience working in an office in my on-campus job, working in an environment that aligns with my career path was completely different than anything I had experienced before. It can be hard to get a feeling for what working in your future industry will be like during college, but my internship gave me a unique insight into what it’s like to actually use the skills I’ve been honing over the last few years.

 

Seeing the ways my degree can help ease the needs of an organization changed the way I look at my future career and how I may be able to fit in a professional setting. Being surrounded by people that have gone through everything I’m currently experiencing was very encouraging and educational, and reassured me that life after graduation doesn’t have to be so daunting.

 

4. It’s okay to be terrified.

Starting a new job can be beyond scary, and starting an internship is no exception. There are new office policies to learn, new management styles to adjust to, and a whole new group of people to get to know, let alone all of the actual tasks and projects you’ll be working on.

 

All of these new challenges in a new environment can be overwhelming, and it’s okay if it freaks you out. Internships are a whole new experience for most of us and are unlike anything we’ve ever done before. Allow yourself time to adjust. Fear of the unknown is normal, and you’ll get more comfortable as you spend more time in your new environment.

 

5. There are some skills that just can’t be taught in a classroom.

There are just some things that are unique to being exposed to a professional setting. Learning how to effectively communicate with a supervisor and within a team, learning to work both independently and in a team, and understanding the leadership structure within an office are lessons I could have never really learned in a classroom. The chance to work in a professional environment and put the theoretical skills I’ve learned to practice was truly invaluable to my education, and I feel all the more ready to enter the professional world because of it.

 

Truthfully, the professional experience provided by an internship can be one of the most impactful experiences of your college career. Not only can it provide insight into your potential industry, but it can also provide you with connections and skills that you can take with you into future endeavors. If you want to pursue an internship or are required to complete one in order to graduate, take the opportunity as a learning experience. Don’t be afraid of the unknown. You’ll learn so much more and will be better for it.

 

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