Congratulations on locking down your first internship. You likely feel nervous, unsure of what to anticipate on your first day and scared to meet your supervisor. Well, lucky for you, you have a seasoned intern right here at your disposal. I’ve completed three internships, and am in the process of doing two right now. Through these internships, I’ve learned a lot and have a lot of advice to share. I understand how you can feel nervous, especially as a first-time intern. But don’t fret. This article will give you all the necessary tips to prepare you for your internship.
Read on to learn some tips that can help guide you through your first internship.
1. Don’t compare yourself to your co-interns
You’ll find it is inevitable to have co-workers, and you shouldn’t fear them. The first time I experienced a co-intern, I spent so much of my time doubting myself, stressing and constantly comparing my work to hers. Some of your co-interns might have more experience or seem super confident, but you both landed the same internship. Don’t doubt yourself or your talents. Try to see your peers as friends, not enemies. Sometimes it may seem like they’re doing a better job than you or that your supervisor likes them more, but you can only focus on your job. Don’t worry about something you have no control over.
2. Ask questions
Picture this: you find yourself sitting in a meeting during the first week of your new internship, and your supervisor starts going over information that you find extremely confusing. You feel scared to interrupt and think your question might be stupid, so you decide you would rather not ask, telling yourself you’ll figure it out on your own. You should actually do the opposite. Nine times out of ten, supervisors are very receptive to questions and concerns, and more than happy to answer questions because it shows the interns are engaged and care to learn about the company. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, because it will make your work life much easier.
3. Build a relationship with your supervisor
Your supervisor exists for more reasons than just to tell you what to do and lead. They can also teach you and mentor you. During my first internship, I didn’t reach out to my supervisor as much because I felt anxious.
But recently, I built an amazing relationship with my new supervisor, and I actually learned so much that I wouldn’t have learned if I didn’t put in the extra work to get to know them. I have found a big misconception when it comes to networking is that you only do this through your peers. You can also network through supervisors. They can provide useful advice for getting a job after graduation, and they could even help make it happen at times. Also, keep in mind letters of recommendation. Get on your supervisor’s good side. Stand out. Because down the line, you will need letters of recommendation, and they could be the ones to write them for you.
4. Ask about the dress code
A common stereotype for interns is that they usually wear blazers and/or business casual attire, but you’d be surprised at how many places are pretty relaxed regarding the dress code. Your supervisor will likely go over the dress code during your onboarding or first couple of meetings, but if they don’t, it doesn’t hurt to ask.
This also depends on your field. If you’re interning in finance, you most likely have pretty strict dress codes. But depending on where you intern and your position, you could possibly dress more casually.
When I interned at my university, the dress code was extremely relaxed, to the point where they allowed us to wear leggings and sweaters. It all depends on the company. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t hurt to ask.
5. If you don’t like it, don’t do it
Now I’m not saying quit your internship the first week you start just because it doesn’t meet your expectations or maybe you find it rather boring.
If you don’t find passion in what you apply for, don’t apply. I’ve often seen stigma around not having an internship. Students seem embarrassed not to have a summer internship, so they’ll go for anything just so they can say they have something. And sometimes you might hear, “Well, it’s better than nothing.” But don’t believe everything you hear.
In an internship, you want to learn as much as you can, but you’ll find that difficult when you discover yourself interning at a company that you can’t stand. Seek out internships that genuinely spark your interest.
6. Remember to make connections
Networking! You’ve probably heard it thousands of times and for good reason. A very big part of having an internship is the connections you make. The connections you make during an internship can sometimes help you get a job down the line. And sometimes, if you don’t remind yourself to talk to your peers, you will get caught up in your own work and completely forget about connections. And trust me, you don’t want to forget about that.
“I was too focused on the job and doing well all by myself. But I’ve realized the biggest value of an internship is connecting and learning from my peers,” Penn State senior Alejandro Toro said.
Not only can you make valuable friendships with your co-interns, but you can also learn from them as well. You will also have them as someone to contact further down the line. When interning, you will find yourself surrounded by so many bright individuals with the same goals and passions as you. Don’t forget it!
7. It’s okay to make mistakes
As an intern, especially first time, you’ll find yourself feeling self-pressure to do everything perfectly. We throw ourselves into our work and spend hours on things that probably shouldn’t take up so much time, just to make sure our final product turns out flawless.
But guess what? As Hannah Montana sings, “Everyone makes mistakes.” It’s unavoidable, especially as an intern.
The first mistake I made during my social media internship, my supervisor laughed about it and told me she had made the same mistake many times as well.
“It’s okay to make mistakes. That’s what an internship is for. It’s for your experience, and it’s a learning process,” Pace University senior Destiny Lam said.
When we try to do everything perfectly, it just ends up backfiring. The fear of making mistakes will hold you back within your internship because you’ll avoid trying new things. You won’t go outside of your comfort zone, and you might even end up dreading your work because you feel scared it won’t be perfect.
As an intern, you should view mistakes as a learning curve and a way to improve instead of viewing them as embarrassing or scary.
8. Stay organized
Whether you use Google Calendar, a physical planner, or even the Notes app, ensure you stay organized and up to date with your responsibilities. This is important, especially when interning during the school year. Between classes and clubs and other commitments, it can seem overwhelming. But seeing everything laid out in front of you will help relieve some stress.
“I always made sure to add assignments to my Google Calendar. That way it gave me notifications ahead of time,” University of Maryland senior Mia Randell said.
Sometimes you might forget a due date. It happens, especially if you have a lot on your plate. So always try to write down your due dates and assignments, just in case you happen to forget. As Randell says, Google Calendar is a great tool to use for organization. You can add your due dates for assignments and even set up custom reminders, which can come in handy.
9. Just be you
They always tell us to act professionally, which we should keep in mind. But sometimes people take professionalism a bit overboard. They think they can’t show their personality at their internship because it may seem “unprofessional.”
Your supervisors want to see you. After all, they hired you for a reason. Crack some jokes from time to time and show them the real you. Don’t stay rigid like a rock at all times.
10. Have fun
While you do learn at internships, they also exist to present new experiences and have fun. In an internship, you’ll find it easy to think ahead. Live in the moment. Internships last only a few months, and you don’t want to look back afterward and wish you had more fun. Make the most of your time. We don’t always hear about the fun that comes from an internship, but internships can help students make a lot of memories. You may get stressed or upset or occasionally even lazy, but at the end of the day, remember this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.