Autogram’s Guide to Interning
In our competitive modern work environment, interns can struggle to find a place for themselves. Often, to make themselves stand out, interns end up taking on responsibilities they cannot follow through on or refusing to ask for help out of fear of being seen as incapable. This inevitably ends up backfiring when interns realize they are hurting both themselves and the organization by pushing themselves too hard. Here are five ways you can stand out as an intern without being exploited or doing more than you can handle:
- Be confident, but don’t be afraid to share your doubts: Interns tend to feel that by asking questions they are revealing their ineptitude. Wrong! Internships are meant to be spaces of learning; no one expects you to be perfect in the first go. Give yourself a week or so to cover all your bases. No organization will hold mistakes against you initially. Don’t beat yourself up if you forget to do certain things or aren’t able to finish a task to perfection. Instead, apologize, mentally document the mistake and make sure not to repeat it again. This shows employers that you are capable of learning and rectifying your mistakes.
- Introduce yourself to new people, but don’t feel pressured to constantly be involved in office conversations: A huge benefit of internships is that you can meet a lot of influential people in your industry without the pressure of interviewing. This is an opportunity to be exploited. Take some time during your first week to introduce yourself to people and ask them about their work at the organization. While this might be a little uncomfortable initially, especially if the workplace is not conducive to small talk, it inevitably pays off as coworkers will remember you when they need help with a project or are looking for a young person’s opinion on something. At the same time, don’t feel bad if you aren’t included in all office conversations or feel out of place. Remind yourself that most of the people in your office have probably worked there for a while and already have established relationships at the workplace.
- Take on extra responsibility, but don’t set unrealistic expectations for yourself: The desire to prove yourself can be strong as an intern. The hope of a full-time job at the organization is tempting and it often feels like taking on extra work is the best route to that goal. This is largely true. Making yourself useful at the office and contributing value to the organization in new and interesting ways can certainly up the likelihood of being asked to stay on. However, it is unwise to take on more responsibility than you can shoulder. An eager intern who promises to do five things and can only deliver on three is far less valuable to an organization than one who promises three things and brings unparalleled quality to each. Be upfront when you know you won’t have the time to finish all the tasks asked of you.
- Know your field, but always be receptive to new information: As an intern, it is your responsibility to try and learn as much as you can about your field before you enter the workplace. It is, however, not your responsibility to know everything. Try your best to read news and dossiers that are important in your field, but be open to receiving new information in workplace conversations. Often, just by virtue of experience, colleagues who have worked for longer will know more about a particular topic than you. Don’t leave all your learning in the hands of others, but remember that a lot of learning comes from interaction with informed individuals.
- Appreciate your workplace, but discuss flaws in the system openly: Being an intern doesn’t make your feelings any less valuable, even if it often may seem that way. Be appreciative of the experiences you are gaining, but if your internship is not living up to the expectations you had, feel free to speak to your supervisor about it. Remember, of course, to be polite and respectful, but make your voice heard by clearly explaining what you had hoped to achieve. Also make sure to have a list of ideas ready on how to make the internship better for you so the discussion comes off less as a rant and more as a productive conversation.
With these tips you will be able to perform well at your internship without compromising on your own time and worth. For more tips on how to perform well in any workplace, follow Autogram on Facebook, Instagram (@myautogram) and Twitter (@myautogram) for regular content and updates!