It was only after I graduated from my postgraduate program last year that I had to face the dreaded word: internships. Up until that point, I had never considered doing one because I worked full-time out of university. Fast forward one year and I’m completing my second one.
Internships are a funny thing. You’re the lowest rung of the corporate ladder and you’re sometimes unpaid or at least poorly paid. Having worked full-time for almost two years beforehand, I had to swallow a LOT of pride to take on an internship. Unfortunately in my new field, it is a rarity to get a job straight out of school without having to take on at least one. I’ve decided to talk about them today because going from a full-time job (dental plan!) to an intern job can be difficult. Now that I have several months of experience with them, there are a few tricks I’ve learned along the way that I wish I knew when I started.
Swallow your pride
Like I said, this was a huge one for me. You may be used to being the Queen/King Bee at school, at previous jobs or amongst your friends but here, you are at the very bottom. I mean, the office hamster probably has more seniority than you. This doesn’t mean you aren’t worth something, but it does mean you have to work hard to prove yourself even if it means motoring through some tedious tasks. Stay positive because this is simply a stepping stone.
It’s important for your boss to see that you are enthusiastic and willing to take on new challenges. People won’t always give you challenging tasks voluntarily, but if you start proving that you can take on more than what is given to you, you’ll start getting noticed.
Start with goals
Goal-setting is always important and in this case, it isn’t a bad idea to go into your internship with specific things that you want to get out of it. Speak to your boss about your goals and ensure that you keep them in the loop. Not only will they be impressed that you have a plan but they’ll try to throw opportunities your way that will fulfil your learning objectives. My boss is great this way and always tries to throw me tasks that I might find interesting and challenging.
This is a topic that has probably been beaten to death but there’s a reason for that! Networking is key and when you’re an intern, you have the opportunity to meet a range of people in your chosen field. Try to get to know as many people as possible because even if you don’t end up staying on, you never know where your next opportunity will come from.
You may work somewhere and you may be doing a terrific job, but if you boss doesn’t know that you would love to work there, you may be passed up for opportunities that arise. It’s important to connect with your boss on a regular basis and let him or her know that you are very interested in an opportunity to stay on. If you see specific opportunities open up that match your skill set, let your boss know immediately before they even start looking at other candidates!
Seek out learning opportunities
For instance, I know that in my field, media relations is a skill that often shows up in postings. I’m fortunate enough to work somewhere that offers this service so I make a point of connecting with the media relations manager and trying to learn as much from him as possible. If you have an interest in planning events, see who in your organization is running an event and try to assist with the logistics. People are generally willing to lend a helping hand.
Finally, of course there is the issue of salary. As much as I despise unpaid internships and believe its completely unethical and exploitative, opportunities often come in unpaid packages. I initially refused to take an unpaid internship but eventually had to succumb to one that paid a grossly low monthly stipend. The thing is, some of the people in my program refused to do it because they couldn’t afford to but ended up not working for months anyway. In the meantime, I had an internship under my belt and made extra money by working a side job.
It’s easy to get down on yourself when you’re an intern but like I said in my last post, everything is what you make it. You could think of yourself as a low-paid, unappreciated intern or you could think of yourself as a bright, enthusiastic individual who is taking the perfect beginning steps to the career of their dreams. I choose the latter.
Have you ever done an internship? If so, how was your experience? Would love to hear!