So, you got this exciting new internship … now what?
You applied months ago, did your very best to nail the interview, and got the heavily anticipated “congratulations – you got the internship” email! You’re on the way to your first day of your internship feeling like this…
And you also might be freaking out on the inside, thinking this…
My name is Alyssa and I felt that very same way four months ago. This summer, I had the privilege to work alongside the amazing people at Devine + Partners.
This fall I will begin my junior year at Temple University, where I major in communications. Prior to this summer, had no idea what I wanted to do after graduation. I decided to dabble around in the communications industry to see what I did and did not like. My internship with D+P was my first, and it made me fall in love with public relations. The learning experiences and opportunities that presented themselves through this internship have been incredible, but the people are what really made the internship so enjoyable. Every day in the office was a learning experience and I would always look forward to the next day. Last May, after receiving the news that I was selected as D+P’s summer intern, I was both ecstatic and extremely nervous. If you have the same feelings about an upcoming internship, read on for some useful tips and advice I have to offer after concluding my first internship!
1. It’s OK to be a little nervous and overwhelmed your first few days in the office!
Whether you have been studying this field or not, you will probably be walking into your new internship not knowing what to expect. Once you accept that this is OK, you will take a lot of pressure off yourself. The intimidation can be high when entering a functional and fast-paced workplace for the first time, especially if you’re a college student that probably recently Googled things like “how to sound cool but also professional when signing an email” or “is it acceptable to talk about Beyoncé during the office lunches” (the answers are: there isn’t a way–don’t even try, and yes, always).
The pressure of starting a new internship in an office full of professionals, on top of being assigned projects you are unsure about, can definitely be stressful. Before walking into the office, remind yourself that everyone will understand that you are just starting out. Just take a deep breath, be yourself and show readiness to work on anything.
2. Stay organized and take ALL the notes!
Over the course of any internship, you will learn a lot about the industry, company-specific information, general life lessons, and useful tips that you will take with you to your next endeavor. You won’t want to miss a single thing you learn – so write it all down! My three daily must-haves at my desk are:
- A folder: to keep any and all projects I worked on (I kept everything from meeting agendas to drafts of press releases I helped with).
- Two notebooks: one as a go-to note pad with random things that I will jot down for assignments, and another one that I use as an organized running list of every task I have been assigned and how to do it, for reference.
- To-do list notepad: (sticky notes work, too!) I label every to-do sheet with the date and the tasks I did that day. I keep them all in one place to look back and see what I did on a daily basis.
Taking notes and staying organized is not only useful to ensure you receive college credit for your internship– but it’s also just a healthy habit to get into. It will allow you to stay on top of your game and remember the things you learned after the internship is over.
3. Ask, ask, ask and always offer your help to the office!
You won’t be an expert right away. It is important to ASK ALL THE QUESTIONS. Like I said before, the office is fully aware that interns are still learning about their fields and don’t know how to do everything. I am the type of person that likes to clarify that I am doing something correctly, but I also hate to annoy people! It’s important to understand that internships are not only a great way for companies to get extra help in the office, but for those companies to offer a valuable learning opportunity to students who are still trying to figure out where they want to take their careers.
So, I found that it’s best to be upfront and approach each person in the office that you work with to ask how they prefer to be contacted if you have a question. Some people may prefer you stop by their desk to ask, while others might prefer email – this way you won’t feel irritating by asking a question, and the people you work with won’t feel bombarded, either. I found that the more questions I ask, the more the D+P team notes that I am interested in doing the task correctly and therefore trust me with more projects in the future.
Whether you’re in an office with 100 people or 9, there will always be something to do. If you finish assigned tasks, don’t wait for another one to show up on your desk. Reach out to the people of the office and ask if there is anything you can help with. This will show persistence and eagerness to work.
4. Give it your all, be persistent, and network!
Even if you’re given the simplest task, do your absolute best. When you complete a task, ask if there is anything else you can do for that project. Offer your interest and time; the person assigning may delegate more responsibility for that project to you. Doing more than asked (within reason) can be a chance to show your dedication and make you stand out. It can also open doors and provide opportunities to get more involved with clients and projects around the office.
Something you can do to make your time at the office more enjoyable, in addition to helping ease your future job search, is to network! Just because you’re the intern doesn’t mean you aren’t a part of the team. While the things you do and learn at an internship are an important part of the experience, it’s also essential to use your position as a networking opportunity. Get to know the people you work with, personally. Ask if you can do coffee or lunch with some of them to ask questions about what they studied, how they got to where they are, where they still want to go with their career. This can not only provide great advice for you as a young professional, but it can also create a connection that you can keep for future business or job opportunities. Aside from professional benefits, it’s just genuinely nice to get to know everyone in the office, too!
5. Go above and beyond (and find opportunities to build your portfolio along the way!)
You want to be able to provide some (credible) proof of your skills to future employers. Use your internship to find what your best at and go from there. At the beginning of the summer, I found that I really enjoyed editing press releases. Because of this, Team D+P continued to provide me with opportunities to edit and write all types of press material for clients.
By guiding me through the process of writing press materials, my colleagues helped me build up relevant writing samples that I will absolutely use in the future. Internships are meant to experience the real world in a field of your interest. So if you end up finding something specific that you really love, get more involved with it while you have industry professionals to guide you.
You might be assigned with a task where you can see potential for you to offer your own thoughts. Without overstepping any boundaries, offer ideas that can add to the project. This could lead to some diverse opportunities to add to a portfolio, aside from writing samples.
A few weeks ago, D+P invited me to attend the yearly gala at the Mann Center. At the event, we were tasked with handling media for the gala and the following performance. I was asked to make a look-book of all the important guests attending this event. My head flashed with light bulbs – as if it were the Devil Wears Prada moment I had been waiting for. I decided I was going to memorize all the names and faces – just in case that knowledge was needed at the event. I spent a long time (even going as far as making flash cards) to ensure I knew each guest. There was some initial teasing for the flashcards, but it all ended up paying off! I got to follow the media photographers around the gala and tell them who they should be taking pictures of.
It was a phenomenal experience, getting to dress up and see so many fascinating and important people to the community (including the South African Ambassador to the United States AND the Mayor of Philadelphia – WAY COOL!!). Over-prepare for anything, you never know when there will be a chance to become more involved.
After reading these tips, remember to just enjoy your time at your internship! It’s a pretty sweet deal to be able to work in a place you hope to be one day, before actually getting there! I can’t express just how much fun I had this summer with Devine + Partners. There are always new projects to work on, meetings to attend, and people to talk to! Also keep in mind that not every internship will be the one for you—but hey—that’s what they’re for! Figure out what you like most before you commit to a specific field. Just as a company must find the right intern, you must find the right internship. From one intern, to another — you’ve got this!
Interested in an internship with Team D+P? Give us a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org.