By Jocelyn Visnov
After submitting numerous applications, a slew of cover letters, and terrifying interviews, you landed your first internship. Congrats! Now what?
Academic advisors can drone on about just how amazing it is for college students to gain internship experience before they graduate, but you’re the one who will be improvising your best “business casual” outfit (whatever that means) and walking through that door. Beginning your first internship can feel very overwhelming at first.
Personally, I jumped into my first “big girl” internship completely blind. While it definitely took me some time to get settled and form good work habits, this experience was so rewarding and very worthwhile.
Here are a few things that helped me not only survive, but thrive in this new and exciting environment.
Never feel bad about asking for help.
Nobodies perfect! It is better to ask for assistance than to spend hours feeling lost or trying to look busy. If you have no idea what you’re doing, don’t try to fake it. Your managers will appreciate that you’re demonstrating you want to learn and do a good job for them.
Befriend other interns.
This also applies to new hires and recent college grads, especially if you’re currently the only intern the company has. Part of why this is so important, is because these are people who know almost exactly what you’re experiencing and how you might feel. They likely feel just as confused and intimidated as you do, so you’ll know you’re never alone. It never hurts to have a friend in the office (they probably need one too!)
This may be your manager or just a co-worker you find you really look up to. If you meet someone who you really connect with, ask that person to be your mentor! Ask that person plenty of questions, or try to observe them working on something that interests you. This is a great way to learn as much as you can during your internship.
Ask for feedback, and accept it.
If you’re not receiving feedback from your manager, they’re not allowing you to get the most out of the experience. Ask for feedback frequently, and don’t take it personally if it’s negative. Digest what that person has to say about your job performance, and make a plan for how to improve moving forward. Schedule a time in the future to check in again, and ask them if you’ve improved.
Set a personal and professional goal for yourself.
Think about what you want to accomplish during your time with the company. Is there a specific person you want to impress? Do you want to gain a specific skill, or become an expert in something you’ve never done before? Set one personal and professional goal for yourself and write them down. Reminding yourself what you’re working towards could help you stay motivated, even on the slower work days.
Remember that you’re so much more than “iust an intern.”
You were hired for a reason! You may be a pre-professional, but that does NOT mean you have nothing to contribute. Just because you don’t have a shining resume with years of experience doesn’t mean your time is any less valuable than anyone else’s. Don’t sell yourself short, and don’t be afraid to speak up! Let your voice be heard, and never be afraid to ask questions.
Quick disclaimer! Everyone has different experiences with pre-professional programs. No two companies are exactly alike, and some of these tips may not be as applicable to your specific internship. Find what works for you, and focus on ways you can get the most out of your experience.
If your internship is not all you thought it would be, you’re not alone. While many pre-professional programs have come a long way from the “copies and coffees” stereotype, there is no guarantee that you’ll have a fantastic experience and become obsessed with the first company you work for. Keep your head up, and try to make the most of your internship, wherever it may be. You got this.