You’ve landed your first internship. You’re thinking, “Wow, I might actually become a real, gainfully-employed adult one day.” If you’re like I was, you might be a little anxious about it, but you know it’s a step in the right direction. Here’s my best advice for how to crush your internship and get the absolute most out of it. (And for those of you far-removed from the intern life, here’s a little window into the experience of one.)
Be open to new projects, and always say yes (even if you’re scared). In my first few months as an intern, I was asked to shoot a comical video with our CEO and COO for our internal news site. There was a moment where I was filled with doubt and anxiety. Instead of being gripped by it, I decided to trust myself and go for it. There’s a lot of conventional wisdom out there for doing this, but this one works the best for me.
I decided on a screenplay format for writing the script, so I looked up a tutorial on how to turn a word document in a screenplay template. It needed to be straightforward and easy to understand, because, go-figure, CEOs and COOs are busy people and wasting their time isn’t exactly how I wanted to start out my internship.
With a few tweaks to the final script, we were off. Lucky for me, both of the executives were patient, trusting, and ready to have some fun with it. The video was shown at an all-company meeting with our parent company’s CEO introducing it. It was well received, it conveyed the message it was supposed to, and people thought it was funny. After I finally exhaled, I felt emboldened and ready to take on more projects that would have otherwise given me anxiety.
Be a sponge. As an intern, you’re not expected to have all of the answers, which means others expect you to ask questions. If you want to learn about a different area of the business, ask a person who works in that area to coffee or lunch. Let go of any worries you might have about wasting their time. If they’re an engaged employee, they’ll gladly take the time to teach. You’re putting them in the position of being a total subject-matter-expert, and who doesn’t love that?
The point is: don’t be shy. This might be your one shot to soak up as much business knowledge as you can before you start applying for full-time positions—where you’ll be expected to have more of a well-rounded understanding of how things works.
Communicate about your schedule. If you’re at a good company, your team and manager is going to understand that life isn’t as straightforward and easy for you right now. You’re trying to balance a rigorous class schedule, your internship, and then nights out with your friends (because you’re only in college once). While this might mean being a little “tired” or “worn out” on a Friday morning. Showing up is worth it.
Just tell your manager of any changes in your schedule as soon as you can. They won’t think you’re a flip-flopper, in fact, they’ll see it as professional and honest. Managers look for this level of communication in future employees, because believe it or not, life keeps flying at you once you’re a full-time professional too.
Connect with other interns. Don’t keep your eyes only fixated on the upper echelon of the corporate ladder. Talk to other interns—they’re about to enter the same job pool as you. I can’t tell you how helpful it was to talk to my fellow interns about job opportunities, local company reputations, and who to speak to about what.
If you’re in a slightly larger company, chances are there’s already an informal gang of interns that eat lunch together, or better yet, goes out for drinks after work. Infiltrate this group, and whatever you do, don’t have an air of superiority about you. I don’t care if you’ve got the coveted finance internship or go to a highly-touted school. Hop down from the high horse. Side note: There’s always an intern that’s slightly older, has been there the longest, and knows more about what’s going on. Make friends with them and you’ll learn a lot.
It’s worth mentioning that TDS has plenty of internships up for grabs at the moment, and I can say from experience that it’s a great place to learn. To check out some of the available positions, click here. To learn a little more about what’s happening at TDS, give this a read: TDS CEO taking recruitment to a new level.