We asked Melissa Lewelling, SRA class of 2010, to tell us a little bit about what she learned this past year from her internship. She blew us out of the water with these great tips! Enjoy!
1) Go In With A Good Attitude And Be A Sponge
The best thing anyone can do going into an internship is ready themselves to be a sponge. You’re there to learn, and while you may know a lot about how to do your job, you don’t know everything. Watch the people around you (your boss, co-workers, etc.), especially those in the potential role you might be looking to fill in the future. Don’t watch them in a creepy way, just take note: of what their daily responsibilities are, how many hours they typically work in a day, how stressed they seem, how far they commute to work, are they able to juggle a family and work, how consistent the prior factors are in their day-to-day life. Internships are great because they give you a taste of something you think you want to do for the rest of your life, but once you’re actually there you might find that it’s not quite right for you.
2) Don’t Count Yourself Out Before You Start
Whatever company you find yourself interning for (especially your first time) is taking a risk on you. They hired you because they have faith that you’ll be a competent worker and worth their time. So even if you are going into something completely unfamiliar to you, like I did, don’t count yourself out as not good enough. It is easy to get down on ourselves after not completing a task at the level we would have wanted or thinking we don’t have the skills to do it in the first place, but if a stranger was willing to believe in you and your abilities then you have no excuse but to believe in yourself. Jump into every task with two feet and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Even if someone looks busy, more often than not they understand the potentially overwhelming situation you are in and are happy to help you out. With the same token, it’s vital to be independent. Once you’ve asked your questions and gotten clarification, go go go! Don’t wait for someone to hold your hand. Show the world through your actions that you are worth watching.
3) The Classroom Is No Substitute For Real Life
Keep in mind that no matter how good the education is that you’re getting, it’s different in the real world. I have some of the best journalism professors on the West Coast at San Jose State, but writing for a full fledged business-tech news site was a whole other ball game — when it came to sentence structure, vocabulary, and style. Keep that in mind if you find yourself grasping for straws at times. While an internship is to gain further experience in your field, it’s more like a real world classroom where the grades are the favor of your employer.
4) Contacts, Contacts, Contacts
I know everyone says it to the point that it almost sounds a little dated and cliché, but contacts are VITAL. The short impression you leave with everyone around you is something that will help make or break your future, so make friends. Just because they’re professional adults doesn’t mean your co-workers or boss are any different than you away from the office. Don’t be afraid to get to know them personally (in the appropriate setting, like lunch) and stay in touch. References are what make the world go ’round, even in this digital age. If you have someone who can personally vouch for you and your work, finding a job after college will be a lot easier.