As a former university student, I have done my fair share of internships. While some of my friends have clearly known what they wanted to do as a career from the moment they were born, I have been moving along the career ladder like a turtle (but slow and steady wins the race right!?) 😉 It’s not that I’m lazy, far from it, and as a student who studied a BA in Arts, there were so many things I wanted to try and internships are a great way to discover what it is you want to do. It can also make it harder to decide exactly what you want to do from 9-5 for the rest of your life but the beauty of being fresh out of high school and navigating your 20’s is that you’re young and have time to get out of your comfort zone and try new things. Internships are extremely valuable, not only does it add some impressive bling to your resume but you learn so much about yourself, your work ethic, office environments, your strengths and weaknesses and what you can improve. Here are the lessons I have learned from my internship experiences over the years.
Always say a big, fat yes to everything!
The only way you will learn things from this experience is to put yourself out there and say yes to whatever work is given to you. Your work will be appreciated and your boss and colleagues will note that you’re willing to give things your best shot and therefore give you more tasks.
Suck it up!
As an intern, at most companies, you will be paid zero or if you’re lucky, get a small allowance. Don’t complain about it. Many people would love to be in your position so be grateful and remember you won’t be an intern forever, no matter how many you’ve done. Eventually, you’ll get where you want to be.
This goes without saying, no one likes to be around a complainer and a gossiper. This is not the way to make a good impression. Even if you’ve had a really tough and challenging day at work, don’t openly complain about it in the office, even to other interns, you have no idea who might be listening and you else might be told.
Socialise with the interns and other work colleagues.
Make friends, starting with the other interns because you’re in this together! You’ll be each other’s comfortable shoulder to lean on. It’s nice to see a familiar face and share with each other your thoughts about your experiences. Plus, when your internship ends you’ll have new friends outside of the office to invite to Friday night drinks. Don’t just rely on the interns to be your best work buddies, make friends with the full-timers in the office too. They have 100% been in your position before and know what it’s like to be an intern. They are the people to get advice from. At first it can be intimidating but all it takes is, ‘Hi, my name is (insert name) and it’s my first day here as an intern. What do you do here?’.
Work at 110%
Try your hardest at everything you get assigned to do and offer to do things you weren’t even asked to do. Be one step ahead. If you don’t have an assertive personality, your days as an intern is the perfect place to practice. Don’t be late, get to meetings on time and participate in discussions and do what you’re asked to do to the best of your abilities. Trust me, your work will get noticed.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
I have made the mistake in the past of nodding my head and saying, yes I understand when I actually haven’t. This is really dumb and annoying. I was nervous and embarrassed to ask questions but your supervisor really doesn’t mind clarifying things with you. They would rather have you ask questions and get the job done correctly the first time than find mistakes later down the track that clearly could have been rectified at the start or even during the process. If you’re working on a task and need something to be cleared up, ask. It shows that you want to learn from this experience and do your best work.
As your internship days come to a close and you wonder if they will offer you a job, don’t wait for them to come to you, go to them. It’s as simple as, ‘I have really loved working here as an intern and I was wondering if there were any job opportunities available at this company that would allow me to continue working here full-time?’ The worst thing that can happen is that they politely tell you that they don’t have anything at the moment but you never know, they might have a position open later down the track that they will consider you for.
Listen to your gut.
Confession – not all my previous internships have been good. The reason isn’t even to do with blatant exploitation. I have had an internship in the past where I just didn’t like the office environment. People gossiped about each other and I questioned if people were being genuine. I just didn’t feel comfortable. I also was not enjoying the work I was doing and I felt disappointed because it was not what I was expecting. First thing I learned from this experience, don’t have expectations. Go in with an open mind and be prepared that it might not turn out the way you want it to. Second thing, don’t feel obligated to stay if you don’t enjoy it but don’t rush into any decisions. If you’re finding that you’re not enjoying yourself, stick it out for a couple more weeks because things can change. You might just be feeling overwhelmed but if this feeling of dread continues, weigh up your options. It’s within your right to leave an internship, just make sure to read your contract first and check what their resignation policy is like.
Think about the reward.
Think about where you will be and the opportunities you can get because you have done this internship. Getting jobs these days is more about your experiences than your university qualifications. Qualifications are still important but you will impress your future employees more by rambling on about all the cool, hands-on stuff you have done.
Try new things outside of your field.
When I’ve looked for internships in the past, I’ve applied for things that I wasn’t sure I was qualified for such as marketing jobs. I applied for a marketing internship at Showpo and have been exposed to the marketing industry and other departments and this has taught me more than I will ever learn sitting in a classroom. Offer to help out other departments, just because you’ve been assigned to one department doesn’t mean you can’t learn from others. By interning at Showpo I have also helped out at photoshoots and behind the scenes for content videos. After following Showpo on social media and watching so many of their fabulous Insta stories and vlogs, I never thought I would be walking into their office on a weekly basis. So, do your research, seize opportunities and go for it!
Never give up!
When your friends are landing jobs left, right and centre and you’re still left swimming through resumes and job applications, don’t feel disheartened. My best friends are teachers and nurses and have been working full time for more than a year now. Even if that internship didn’t result in a job offer, you will find your path. It just wasn’t meant to happen right now. When you get rejections, don’t give up. Timing is everything.
Great advice by Tamara Bose (who was such a great intern, she's now staying on as a contractor).