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What I Learned From My Internship

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at MSU chapter.

As a member of the business college, nothing is given more importance than a summer internship. They’re the best way to gain industry experience, figure out if you’ve chosen the right direction with your major, and strengthen your resume more than any on-campus job. This past summer, I got the opportunity to intern at an accounting firm in Michigan, and I found there was more to be learned than what advisors may tell you. 

When I started my internship, I immediately saw the vast change in attitude toward dress code in corporate offices. In classes, we’ve always been told to dress business professional for interviews and business casual for the office. When I came into the office on my first day, I was shocked and pleased to see that wasn’t the case anymore. Wearing jeans, having colorful nails, and showing visible tattoos didn’t take away from my ability to do my job; it seems corporate America is finally starting to realize that. For so long, there have been so many unspoken rules about dressing professionally that I personally haven’t agreed with. The definition of “professional” that was instilled in me as early as high school when I participated in DECA never made sense. These rules were especially strict on women, and the way women should be dressing in a professional setting seemed adamant on dampening creative expression. But the beautiful thing about today’s workplace is that people won’t take you less seriously because you’re not wearing a pantsuit and heels.

It can be misleading, however, when a workplace seems too casual. It’s important to remember that even though the lines of professionalism can be blurred, you’re still an intern at a place where others have years of experience on their resumes. It’s very easy to joke around with your coworkers and rant about your workloads. It’s important to be extra cautious, because as I like to put it, anything you say can and will be used against you at your performance evaluations. 

A lot of what I learned at my internship is specific to the accounting profession, and probably won’t be of use to a lot of people. But there are some tips for growth that are likely to remain constant across all industries. The most important one I can stress is to take notes. Most companies give you complimentary notebooks when you start — use them! Taking notes helped me keep track of what was left to be worked on, what questions I needed to ask the next time I spoke to my supervisor, and what tools I needed to get through my workload. Even if it feels excessive at first, taking notes will help you out in the long run, as it creates a record of references for you to look back on. 

The other important tip is to not be afraid of asking questions. When you first start an internship, you aren’t going to have any idea how things work at your company. You’re going to have to learn how they run all on your own, and you’re going to be confused. Asking questions, no matter how trivial, will help you feel more comfortable in your place of work and give you confidence in what you’re doing. Make it a habit to say things like, “I don’t understand this section, can you walk me through it?” or “Can you recap everything so I can make sure I have it all written down?” Most companies would rather you take the initiative and ask questions rather than trying to figure it out on your own and potentially making mistakes that will take more time to fix in the long run. 

Risa Bhutani is a junior at Michigan State University studying accounting. She is also the events director for Her Campus at Michigan State and enjoys creating core memories for people in the chapter through events. She is a fan of reality TV, true crime, reading, and hiking in her spare time.