Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Career Tyro: Internship Advice

Summer has come and gone, but it's never too late to be thinking about internships in advance!
While people often talk about how to get internships (connections really do help— a lot) and resume tips (spell check, spellcheck, spellcheck!), but what people often don't talk about is how to be a good intern once you get there.

This month, I am very honored to be speaking on a few panels at school to talk about my internship experiences, especially this past summer at Redbook Magazine where I learned a lot about corporate culture and the magazine industry. Through all of my internships though, I've discovered some universal pointers that can help you have a successful internship experience. 

The Cream Rises to the Top

I've talked about this before, but I have had some version of this advice shared with me numerous times by industry professionals. As Bethany Frankel once said, "If you're getting coffee, you be the best coffee getter, because someone will notice, and the cream rises to the top." This quote speaks volumes for any intern or young professional climbing the corporate ladder. No, I've never been asked to get coffee (I have been asked to help order champagne though! ha!), but I have had to do some menial tasks like book car rental appointments, tab magazine issues, and organize storage closets; however, despite how menial the task at hand may seem, always do it willing with 100% effort— and a smile! As the Zig Ziglar's quote goes, "Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude."

Take the Initiative

This goes back to the number one lesson I learned freshman year: take they initiative. If you finish a task, take the initiative and ask your boss if there's anything you can help with or better yet, suggest something you noticed you could help with, including the most menial task like organizing the storage closet. Initiative shows interest and can lead to bigger responsibilities down the road. Also, take they initiative if you find there is some specific skill you'd like to learn such as using Excel or Photoshop. Internships are about helping you narrow down your future career interests; most bosses want to offer opportunities to help you discover them.

Ask Questions, but Try Problem Solving First

Asking questions is a great way to show interest, but be conscious of asking the "right" questions. Problem solving is such an asset and is like a muscle that needs to be practiced and developed. Instead of running to your boss to answer every question, first try to research the answer yourself or at least try to come up with an alternative to present if a problem arises. While this shows great initiative and problem solving skills, that doesn't mean you should avoid questions altogether. Do ask questions to clarify instructions to avoided unnecessary mistakes and do ask why you are completing certain tasks. Again, it shows you are interested in not just completing jobs, but performing them well and understanding how they impact others and the company as a whole.

Pay Attention to the Details

Being detailed oriented is another valuable skill across any internship, job, or industry. They are the difference between good things and great things. Absorb every minute you spend in the office like a sponge. Pay attention to the littlest, minute things such as where people walk through the cubicles. Did you ever notice some people dislike the distraction of people walking behind their cubicle?    Especially when you perform your responsibilities, double triple check your work down to the very last detail. Is your email full of typos? Did you hole punch the client booklets crooked?
People will notice them good and bad.

A Notebook is Your Best Friend

I didn't realize how important it was to carry a notebook with you at all times until my internship this summer. Writing down notes is so important because it prevents you from not only having to remember a task to the "t", but also forgetting an important detail. Especially on busy days when your boss is busy, the last thing you want to do is keep asking your boss to repeat instructions or make mistakes because you didn't remember the information correctly. You also never know when your notes will come in handy for future reference (i.e. you have to make a spreadsheet a month later, but forgot how to make the template for it).


Even if you are not necessarily interested in a person's specific job position, get to know some of the different people in your office and more importantly, how they got there. Nowadays, careers are not linear or rather, there is no set path to get somewhere. There were numerous times I had short informational interviews with different people in our office this summer and learned about their career history. All of them had been at different companies and held various jobs before being in their current role; this offered so much insight not only into different industries and corporate cultures out there, but different jobs I was interested in exploring. You also never know how the networking connections they might have could help you in the future. 

Invest in Yourself

While attending an information session with a senior editor this summer, the best insight she gave about becoming successful was investing in yourself, because she invests in people who invest them themselves. This includes dressing professionally for "the job you want", but also the little details like posture, chipped nail polish, and even cursing can make bad impressions that stick. You want to constantly attempt to portray the best representation of yourself at work. Invest your time and energy into being the best version of yourself because chances are you will transfer this same mindset and care to the company you work at. 

What have you learned from interning?
I'd love to hear some more tips!


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