Takeaways from life as an intern

My entire life was spent preparing for college and finding a job. Everything I did was done well and by the book, giving me the impression that I would have countless job offers waiting for me at graduation. I didn’t.

I got in touch with a few connections and started looking for post-graduate internships, hoping I would find some luck there. I was seemingly, always the intern and never the employee, but the truth is, job searching takes time. So I accepted an internship to continue building my skills and resume while I continued to job search. Less than three months into the internship I was offered a full-time position with the company.

As I begin the transition into my new position, I wanted to take some time to reflect upon my experiences. Below are what I consider some of my most important takeaways from life as an intern.

Take advantage of opportunities that are new and unique.

Internships were created for two reasons: to allow students to experience the professional world and to allow companies to scout young talent. Never turn down an offer to attend a board meeting, the local business association’s lunch and learn, or to take some time to watch a webinar. Employers want you to be as educated and well-rounded as possible because they’ll benefit from your skills.

…if you aren’t finding many new opportunities, create your own.

I was fortunate enough to have always worked for employers who showered me with learning opportunities. However, not everyone is. Maybe your supervisor meant to invite you to that cool workshop, but was on vacation and forgot. Maybe they thought their coworker sent you the link to the webinar, so they didn’t. Regardless, if you overhear coworkers talking about an exciting workshop they’re attending, ask if you can join. They’ll likely say yes.

Network, network, network.

Get to know your coworkers, your supervisors, their supervisors and Sally Smith from that department you’ve always been curious about. Invite them to coffee to ask about their background or an interesting project they’re working on. Hint: professionals love to talk about their job. They’re proud of their experiences and want to see you succeed in yours, too. Plus – you can ask them those tough questions that never seem appropriate during work (how to find a good work/home life balance, tips on applying for jobs, etc.).

Carry a notebook wherever you go.

This is one of the best pieces of advice I learned from a former supervisor. It’s such a simple tip that it’s often overlooked. You never know when you’ll need to write a name, number or website down.

Get organized.

Prioritizing work has never been difficult for me, but I could have saved a lot of time and stress had I created my personal organization strategy sooner. Create an Excel document or a Google Doc, buy an oversized calendar you can tack sticky notes to, optimize your phone calendar or a cool new app – the possibilities are endless. Find the system that works best for you and stick to it. Employers always appreciate an intern who meets deadlines and answers emails in a timely fashion (on the topic of emails: always answer those within 24 hours, or I guarantee you’ll forget).

Don’t think a position is below you.

You might think you’re above an internship once you’ve graduated, but the truth is, internships are still excellent career fuel (and they’re often paid). Landing your dream job right out of college isn’t likely. Look for openings with companies you’re interested in and apply for those – advancement is always possible later on down the road.

Current interns: your time will come. So until then, be fearless, keep an open mind and go the extra mile.

Have any advice of your own to share? Comment below!

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