How to Be the Best Intern

So after searching the internet far and wide, sending in countless applications, and going to nerve-racking interviews, you've finally landed an internship. Now what? If you're like any other college student without professional experience, getting an internship can be super exciting and terrifying at the same time. Getting thrown into a field you may or may not be interested in, and doing work you've never done before and may not know how to do is really scary. So how do people navigate that typical semester-long internship without pulling their hair out? Here are some tips to help you keep your cool and things running smoothly. 

1. Be Honest. If you don't have experience with Adobe Photoshop or Microsoft Excel and your internship supervisor asks about it as a qualification, tell the truth. You want to start out as honest as possible so you don't find yourself in a real bind later on. It's okay to not have any experience with these things, and a lot of times it's even expected. Just let them know you don't have experience with those specific skills, but make sure you describe some skills you do have that are just as relevant. Also make sure you show interest in learning how to navigate new applications or skill sets! 

2. Ask Questions. This one is HUGE. The last thing you want to do as an intern is waste your time creating something useless for the place you're working because you were too scared to ask a few questions to clear things up. If you aren't sure what your responsibilities entail, ask your supervisor or mentor for some suggestions and possibly some past examples to get you on the right track. If your task requires something you aren't comfortable doing, ask if you can do something else instead or if you can get one-on-one guidance while you do it so that you don't mess up. People understand that interns are under a lot of pressure to do things they've never done before, and do them accurately. The more you ask for help during the process, the more time and effort you'll end up saving for yourself and those mentoring you. 

3. Create a schedule. So maybe you've been stuck with someone who is a little unorganized and gives you a lot of leeway when it comes to when and where you get your work done. Suggest weekly meeting times to go over your tasks and check in about the progress you're making. Maybe create some time slots when you can come into the office to get things done under supervision or if there's stuff you can do at home, use that same time slot to go to a coffee shop each week and work on your assignments, and send every draft of your work to your supervisor so you can tweak it to their liking. The more you get into the habit of working, the more you'll get done and show that you put time and effort into your tasks.  

4. Have confidence in your abilities. This may mean asking for assignments that are going to seriously challenge you, or taking on a project all by yourself with little supervision. If you find yourself in these positions, don't doubt your ability to accomplish the task at hand just because you are inexperienced! Experience is only one small portion of what it takes to accomplish something. If you are passionate and willing to put thought, effort, and time into a project, you will be able to get it done. Showing you can take on something big and handle it accurately and professionally will pay off down the road. 

5. Don't overwork yourself. If your internship supervisor or mentor still holds that idea that interns are there for coffee runs and making copies, they are sorely mistaken. Make sure you are being treated well in your workspace by your mentors and coworkers. If you are only supposed to work 10 hours per week but are being asked to stay late every single night, there's something wrong and you don't have to take that. Set your boundaries and make sure you are doing work that needs to be done but not being taken advantage of. It's not your job to say yes to everyone. 

With these tips in mind, don't forget to keep your chin up and grab that internship by the horns! Experience is key in the job market today, and you never know just how far an internship could take you in the future. 

[Photo courtesy to United City, Red Hype, and Tech Crunch]