It’s the first day of your new internship. Take a deep breath and walk through the door. Give a friendly smile to each person you pass. Find your office and shake your new boss’ hand—make sure your grip is firm, but not too firm. You have a long, but rewarding, day ahead of you.
An internship can seem daunting, but each of the upperclassmen in this article went to their first day on the job and lived to tell about it. Here are their top tips for killing it at your next internship.
1. Don't Be Afraid to Ask Questions.
Interns are often afraid to ask questions because they think they will look stupid or ignorant. Truth is, asking questions is the only way to learn and improve at your internship, and it shows your boss and coworkers that you are engaged.
“In my first internship, I was afraid of saying I didn't know how to do something and didn't feel comfortable enough to be proactive about asking questions to get the job done well,” said senior Bryan Leines, who worked as a statutory tax credit specialist at Ernst and Young in Dallas. “Then I learned that my coworkers actually appreciated me asking for advice, and as long as I could show I tried and was having trouble, they were happy to help.”
2. Never Say No to a Task.
Whether a request comes from your boss or a coworker, consider it a learning experience rather than a chore. Even if you’re being asked to do something outside your job description, that doesn’t mean the task will be pointless for you.
“Never say no to an errand or event or any extra thing because it’s all about the experience!” said senior Kent Hoshiko, who interned with the United States Embassy to the United Kingdom. “You never know when you might do something really cool or meet a really interesting person.”
3. Meet as Many People as Possible.
Internships are not the time to put your head down and go about your tasks like a robot. Your internship is an amazing opportunity to meet people you can learn from!
“Most workplaces are very friendly to interns and love to get to know you [and] tell you about what they do,” Hoshiko said. “My internship experience in London wasn't exactly the kind of work I'd want to do for my career, but I met several people in different offices who are still to this day helping with career advancement; one even regularly reviews my resume and writing samples. You never know when you might make a lasting contact!”
4. Speak up.
If you have an idea, don’t keep it to yourself. This is the time for you to put the skills you’ve learned in college to the test.
“During one of my first days of my internship I decided to pitch an idea,” said junior Beth Bergstrom, a communications intern for the Episcopal Diocese of Ohio. “We were preparing for our bicentennial, and I said we should do 200 years of bishops. The idea has blossomed into the Episcopacy in Review. Seeing an idea turn into something so big has been an incredible experience. The first segment had thousands of people read and respond… Just because you are new does not mean you can't have good ideas.”
5. Take notes.
Relying on memory alone is a recipe for disaster. Jotting down important things in a notebook or carrying a day planner can save you from embarrassing moments.
“Take notes. It really helped me,” said junior Abigail Olinski, who interned with the office of New Jersey congressman Scott Garrett on Capitol Hill.
Giving tours of the Capitol was part of her job.
“There were so many exhibits and different floors and turns that I had to take, so navigating was much easier when I had the notes on where to go,” Olinski said.
6. Tell Your Boss if You Don't Feel Challenged Enough.
Your employer isn’t a mind reader. Sometimes he or she can’t tell if you’ve gotten the hang of your current tasks and are ready to move on to something more difficult.
“Towards the end of my first internship the man who hired me asked how I was enjoying the work,” Leines said. “I said I was happy to be there and help, but the work wasn't challenging and I sometimes found myself bored.
“He was kind of taken aback and said, ‘Well, why didn't you ask for something better? There's always more we could give you, but we won't unless you ask for it because we don't want to overwhelm you if you're content. Always just ask!’
“The last two weeks were awesome and I got to connect with a team in a different department even and work on projects with them... It's always better to be up front and show initiative,” he concluded.
Do these tips make you feel more equipped for your first foray into the career world? Let us know in the comments below!