10 Tips Before You Start Your First Internship

By Chelsea Jackson on March 9, 2017

So you’ve applied to potentially hundreds of positions and now you’ve finally been offered an internship. Better yet, you’ve accepted this offer, and what comes next is uncharted territory. Starting your first internship is arguably more frightening than applying for one. When I got my first internship offer, the only professional experience I had was writing for my high school’s newspaper, the Crier.

While writing for the Crier could get intense, I had only worked with students and teachers who I had known for years. Yet, here I was embarking on my first internship, where I knew nobody in this new setting and was faced with new set of expectations. If we’re being honest with ourselves, all new experiences drag us out of our comfort zones. If you are half as terrified as I was on the first day of my first internship, here are some helpful tips to make your first internship less stressful.

1. Ask Questions

Mean Girls via giphy.com

Asking questions can teach you just as much as a lecture hall can. If you notice that a co-worker or another intern is working on a unique task, ask him or her how they came up with the final result. Most of the time, your coworkers will feel grateful that you enjoy their work and will gladly give you some pointers. Heck, they might even give you a step-by-step tutorial.

2. It’s Okay to Ask for a Raise

NBC via theodysseyonline.com

Although it is uncommon for an intern to get a raise, it is important to know your worth. If you are confident that you have grown since you started your internship, and you have worked at the company for at least a year, you should feel confident requesting a raise. Asking for a raise also gives you valuable experience on how to market yourself and your abilities, which is a vital skill throughout your professional career.

3. Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Time Off


Tvland via tvland.com

Internships can seem impossible to keep up with, especially when you have multiple exams and projects due each week. Employers understand how stressful it is to simultaneously go to school and work, especially since most of them have gone through the same experience.

Before you compromise your own health due to stress, talk to your employer. Let him or her know that you have a stressful week, and you might need to take one or two days off to study for an exam or finish a project. Most employers will sympathize with your predicament and give you the day(s) off. If you do not voice these issues to your employer ahead of time, the quality of both your schoolwork and work-work with suffer.

4. Don’t Feel Defeated by Busy Work


Whether you’re scanning documents, ordering office supplies, or licking envelopes, it’s important that you do not feel underwhelmed by busy work. These errands might seem beneath you or tedious, but they can help mold you into a better worker. Employers take notice of employees who take the time to complete a task that might not be included in their job description.Though sometimes boring, busy work can propel you to bigger and better projects during your internship. Plus, the work that you do helps to keep your office running.

5. It’s Okay to Ask for Help


Being the stubborn person I am, asking for help was always the last option when I was problem solving projects. During my first internship, there were a few problems that would have been resolved much quicker, if I had only asked for help or advice. Asking for help should not be viewed as weakness, especially since it gives you experience working in group settings.

6. Don’t Treat The Other Interns as Competition


It can be difficult not to view your colleagues as potential threats, but it is important to realize that you were not hired as intern to compete. You and all of the other interns were hired to work and learn. Viewing the other interns as competition can stop you from performing to the best of your abilities.

Even if other interns may produce better work than you, it is critical that you only focus on your own work. If you stop worrying about what others are doing, you will produce better work, and the work of your peers will naturally inspire you to do better.

7. Don’t Fret One-On-One Meetings


Meetings with your supervisor can be intimidating. However, one-on-one meetings are normal and healthy, whether you are working for a large corporate or a non-profit. These meetings allow you to get constructive criticism on your work, so you can learn how you can improve. Though these comments could seem personal, it’s important to remember that your supervisor wants to see you grow and become a more proficient worker.

Aside from receiving feedback, one-on-one meetings provide an excellent junction to implement your own feedback. These meetings are also great opportunities for any workers to express his or her ideas, which could improve the company. Whether you have a great idea for a website update, a new marketing campaign or a new product, these intimate meetings are a valuable resource to bounce off ideas for potential innovations within the company.

8. You Can Never be Too Early

Sign with Robert via giphy.com

Like the saying goes, the early bird gets the worm. In this case, interns who show up to work early get noticed and can even be recognized with special projects that aren’t typically granted to interns.

9. Hide Your Phone


In today’s society, cellphones can be just as useful as they are destructive. Texting or checking social media at work can easily distract you from your assignments.

Even if you have little to do at work, or you are bored, using your phone can hinder the future of your internship. If your supervisor catches you on your phone, and he or she will, they might not see you as a passionate worker. If your supervisor develops this perception, it can be hard to change their opinion.

10. Sometimes it’s Okay to Quit


It’s always bittersweet to leave a job or an internship. However, it is important to learn when it’s the right time to leave your internship. It is important to know that you can outgrow an internship. A wise man, Derek Zarn, once told me, “Internships are meant for learning. If you aren’t learning anymore, than you need to find a new opportunity to learn”.

Like any breakup, the feeling might not be mutual, but it is important that you explain to your direct supervisor(s) why you are quitting your internship. Regardless, they will respect your decision and could even write you a flattering reference letter.

Although quitting an internship is never a pleasant experience, it is important to know when to quit. Unfortunately, I learned the hard way that sometimes it’s better to quit. During my freshman year of college, I had decided to join six different clubs, take eighteen credits and take on an internship. However, mid-way through my first internship, I decided to tack on another internship. Though I have always enjoyed being busy, this schedule was too tight, even for a seasoned work-a-holic.

Being inexperienced, I thought that I would be disappointing my supervisor at my first internship if I told him that I wanted to quit. Instead, I chose to sacrifice my sleep in order to balance my engagements. As we all should know, losing sleep is anything but healthy, so I got sick. A lot.

Because I was the epitome of the ill, the quality of my work suffered at my first internship. It took becoming very sick and completing a few sub par projects to realize that I needed to quit.  Regardless of how I learned, I learned a lesson from Oprah Winfrey, “You can have it all, just not all at once”. My first internship allowed me to learn how to balance my professional commitments. Since gaining these vital skills, I have been able to successfully complete more than half a dozen internships.

I live in Iowa now, but I was born and raised in Florida. When I'm not writing, I'm probably drawing or cooking.

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