5 Things I Wish I’d Known Before My Summer Internship
These tips also go for switching to grown-up-ish 9-5 library work, too.
A follow-up to #4: If you are, either presently or historically shy, be certain that when you’re trying to be professional, look someone in the eye, stand up straight, etc., you also manage to pay attention to what (s)he says. This may have been a rookie mistake of mine.
Hello again, friends! It’s been a while since I updated here, because life has been very busy in the real world; I finished my master’s paper, graduated, and, most exciting, started my new job! I’m now working at the Southern Folklife Collection in Chapel Hill, NC, working with digital audio files, which is AWESOME.
I’m sure life has been busy for everyone else, too! For a lot of you students, I’m hoping that my tips helped, and that you’re now starting some exciting internships (I’d love to hear about them!). I’ve been meeting up with a lot of my friends from school who are now doing internships that wanted to know more about my experiences/get any tips I may have, so I thought I would share some of those with all you interns out there!
- Sit up straight. No seriously, and I promise I’m not trying to be your mother here by saying this. But a few hours at a time at a desk in class is very different from 20-40 hours a week at a desk, and your back will thank you for being conscientious about your posture. Not only that, but good posture looks better, and helps you look more confident, which is always a good thing! To help, take a brief walking break about once an hour, just to get a sip of water or go to the bathroom so you take the pressure off your back, and try some of these exercises here.
- Say yes. Your boss offers to let you sit in on a meeting that sounds dull? Say yes. Your program offers a full day workshop on job applications? Say yes. Your boss asks you to do something (ethical and legal of course) outside the internship description? Say yes. Being open to new experiences means that you have the opportunity to broaden your experience as an intern, and turn a good learning experience into a great one.
- Building on “Say yes,” take the opportunity to get to know your coworkers and fellow interns, and not just in your department. From a purely professional standpoint, you never know when these contacts will come in handy, regardless of what their field is right now. People know other people, and people change fields. But from an Oprah-Winfrey-live-your-best-life perspective, the people you meet while interning can make the intern experience an amazing one. I met people last summer who I am still good friends with and are a constant source of inspiration to me. I think that they may be some of the brightest, most passionate people I know, and I’m proud that I had the opportunity to work with them.
- Pay attention and ask questions. I had a really embarrassing moment last summer. I had reached the end of the project, and had gone to my boss to get another assignment. I don’t remember what he said exactly (it was a year ago!), but I had taken it to mean, “I’m busy right now and don’t know what you need to do, so just take a few minutes to relax until I get a second.” So I got on my computer and started checking my email. About 15 minutes later, he approaches me, and apparently what he had meant was “There’s this small side project that involves a lot of fiddling with an internet database I’d like you to work on.” I was mortified! And I could have avoided it if I had asked questions and made sure we were on the same page. I’ll say this one again: pay attention and ask questions.
- Realize that your internship is temporary. If it’s a good situation, be very present in the moment and enjoy it fully. Take pictures (where appropriate and ethical), write a blog to remember it by, exchange email addresses. Don’t get a big head about your awesome internship, because you have to come back to school/your regular job eventually. If it’s a bad situation, and they can be bad, remember that it’s only for a few weeks/months. You can gain a lot of strength from a bad situation, and learn an awful lot about what not to do, which is just as valuable as what to do. Either way, keeping the experience in perspective is important.
So how many of you are involved in internships? I’d love to hear your stories and advice!
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