Summer internships are among the most important parts of college. You’re an intern during the school year at a local company, and then your goal for the summer? Landing an awesome (preferably paid) internship. I had my fair share of internships throughout my college career. My first one I took on my sophomore year of college, creating and writing content for an entertainment blog run by a NYC/LA based public relations director. Meeting her for the first time was probably one of the more intimidating moments of my young adult life. Little did I know where all of my internships would take me.
I can’t emphasize enough the importance of having internships throughout college. The truth is, there is only so much you can learn in class. A class can’t teach you the dynamics of a workplace environment, or how to communicate effectively with co-workers. It can’t teach you the ins and the outs of the company you work for, because the only way you can learn the “unwritten rules” is by actually being present in the company. Thanks to my first internship being largely writing-based, I learned quickly just how passionate I was about not just writing (that I’ve known for a while…), but also about social media.
I moved on from that first internship to do market research for a company in New York, social media for a few companies in NYC, and finally, my last internship of my college career–and my gateway to my first real job– was at a fashion company I had no idea was less than five minutes away from home. It’s from my experiences with this company that I’ve learned the most, and I’m thankful for it just about everyday. (We all have our off days, okay?)
5 Things You’ll Learn as the “Intern”
1. You’re the bottom of the food chain. No joke, I started what became a sales internship folding underwear for three hours a day, two days a week. As the intern, you tend to get tasked with completing the work no one else wants to do. And you’re expected to do it with a smile on your face! Let me tell you, you better do it with a smile on your face. I took sales calls, made sales calls, made prospecting lists that never seemed to end, unpacked heavy pallets, folded more pairs of underwear than I cared to count, and did a lot of organizing. The bosses take notice of your work and attitude, so yeah, you may be the bottom of the food chain but someone has to do the grunt work. One of the key lessons in being an intern is being respectful and willing to do even the tiniest task. Someone will always be appreciative.
2. You’ll be forced out of your comfort zone. I worked on a team with two other young women who were (and are!) really good at what they do. I did not take as easily to being on a sales team as I thought I might have. When it came time for me to make my first phone call to a buyer, I was petrified. I worried they’d be rude to me and I wouldn’t know what to do. I worried they’d ask me a question that I wouldn’t have the answer to. I worried that I would stumble over my words and not make any sense. And while all three happened to me, all three taught me something. They mostly taught me not to take myself too seriously, but they also really pushed me. In my job position now, it’s incredibly important that I be comfortable talking on the phone– and it’s because of my experience as an intern that I am.
3. Smile a lot. Complain never. For my ladies who have the hardest time hiding their feelings– time to conquer the angry resting face. You’ll be asked to do a ton of crap you won’t want to do and if you’re as entitled as everyone thinks our generation is, you probably will feel like you shouldn’t have to do it either. Even on days when I questioned whether I was ever going to benefit from all the grunt work, I had to literally physically make myself smile. It was the only way to get through, and you never know who you’re making an impression on. Which brings me to my next point…
4. Someone is always watching. You’d be a fool to walk into an internship with the idea that nobody will care who you are or pay attention to you. Someone will always have their eye on you, and in the business world, people won’t hesitate to tell you when you’ve done something wrong. Don’t try and sneak a quick text, don’t listen to music on your phone when it’s not appropriate. Do what you’re asked, simple as that.
5. You’re going to make a lot of mistakes. And it’s okay. I once sent a set of samples to the wrong department in Nordstrom. Like, the very wrong department. To this day, I don’t exactly know how I messed it up, but I did. Luckily, my boss at the time was understanding of the issue and we were able to counteract it, but it was definitely one of my more embarrassing moments at the company. The truth is, being an intern is great because yes, you might mess up, but your co-workers are more understanding of a mistake now than they will be once you’ve learned all the ropes. I’m not saying it’s a great thing to mess up, but it is inevitable. Don’t dwell on it, instead take a lesson from it and apply what you’ve learned next time around.