Despite all this, I went for it, and I am glad to report I made it through just fine. So in case there are any self-doubting future interns out there, trust me – you are definitely not alone in your anxiety, and an internship can be a wonderful experience. Still, losing those nerves is easier said than done, so I have compiled a list of tips to help you. These are all things I have learned through my time at Make-A-Wish, but they should be applicable to plenty of situations.
#1 Take the time to learn people’s names and positions.
Because you can look anyone up with a few clicks, this might seem like old-fashioned advice. But when someone asks you if *Tina is here today, and you’re left faking, “Uh, maybe, I don’t know. I think she’s in a meeting. Wait, are you talking about Tina with the blonde hair or the brown hair?” (hint: there is no Tina with brown hair), you’ll feel silly. If you take the time to know who people are, you won’t be left in the dark like this. You will understand your workspace better, too.
Personally, I am horrible with names. No, really – I have spent an entire semester talking to a classmate without knowing their name … on multiple occasions. If you share my struggle, try using mnemonic devices to remember who everyone is. My personal favorite is alliteration, like “Tina the Temp.” You can also associate people with their favorite food, band, movie, or hobby (Tina enjoys skiing). Here are some other tips for remembering who exactly it is that you work with.
*I promise Tina isn’t real. This is all hypothetical.
#2 Divvy up your time between your department and any other interns.
This might seem easy, but oftentimes interns will be seated with each other rather than with their team. Additionally, if you are a traditional student, you will probably be closer in age to the other interns than the employees, so it might feel more comfortable to hang out with them. However, if you only spend time with interns, you will neglect so many of the working relationships that make internships valuable. Internships are all about testing out a certain position or organization – who better to chat with than the very person who has that exact job experience? Also, if you seclude yourself, communication with supervisors can break down, which can lead to wasted time or project re-dos.
At the same time, befriend your fellow interns. After all, they are in the same boat as you. They likely have less work experience than your supervisors, they are also unfamiliar with their current position, and they may not know all the basics. Thus, they are a trusty source of information when you feel embarrassed asking a question. You can also learn about other positions this way, which can help you understand the organization and your own career possibilities.
#3 Get to know your coworkers personally.
Just because you’re an intern doesn’t mean you have to build up unnecessary barriers between yourself and your coworkers. The people at work are just that – people – and they most likely want to be treated that way. This is not to say you should abandon all sense of etiquette, but realize that it is uncomfortable to work with a group of strangers.
There are a couple of ways to go about meeting employees or interns. When invited, go to lunch, coffee or dinner. Attend fun events or luncheons at work and any holiday parties. Whenever it’s a good time for a break, chat with the people near you. It sounds like common sense, but sometimes it is easy to forget these types of things if you are nervous about doing well at your job. Just remember that it takes more than work ethic to be a good intern; you also want to be personable and trustworthy.
#4 Learn how to take and give constructive criticism.
This one has probably been the most important for me. Firstly, good writing is dependent on honest editing, so staying open-minded about your own work is a must. But even in other applications, feedback from others helps you improve yourself. Sometimes it takes a second set of eyes to catch your mistakes or explain how to do a task more efficiently.
As an intern, it is likely you will not know much about acting as a professional in your field. This is where your supervisor can come in and assist you. Interns are diamonds in the rough, so to speak, and supervisors know this. They want you to succeed, so let them give you a boost!
#5 Remind people of your goals.
An internship is a way for you to test out certain job positions. Some people are fortunate enough to be hired into the organization they interned for, and that is wonderful. But chances are, you will end up somewhere else down the road (at least in the long run), and you will need others to help you get where you’re going.
Your coworkers can’t help you if they don’t know what your goals are. Don’t disparage the current position you have (after all, you’ve been given a tremendous opportunity), but also don’t feel like it is inappropriate to be candid about your aspirations. You never know the history of your coworkers or the other interns, and they may be more than happy to share their advice with you!
#6 Don’t be afraid.
I know, I know – this one is easier said than done. And it’s not really that you shouldn’t be afraid – you actually should be, a little. You’re heading into unknown territory. But you cannot let that fear become an obstacle that bars you from getting where you need to be. A healthy dose of fear can be an excellent motivator if you keep in it check.
Those are just a few tips from one intern, but there are many more. Feel free to share your intern advice in the comments to catch any future interns up to speed!