Throughout the past year, I have completed three internships (read more about two of them here). Each job taught me something new and different about the intern experience and I wanted to share some of that with you! Sure, networking, showing up on time, and having a professional resume are important but here are 5 tips you won’t hear anywhere else…
1. Know what your getting into
Internships are infamous for being misleading as hell. Often times, job descriptions exaggerate and make the job sound much more intensive than it actually is. You get your hopes up thinking you will gain so much experience and feel like a real employee just to realize that you will be fetching coffee and doing grunt work. This is a difficult situation because as an often unpaid employee, you can’t really do much about them lying in the job description. Most of the time, you need the credits and the process of finding another internship is too long and hard to go through in the middle of the semester if you decide to quit.
After talking to a fellow intern of mine recently, she brought up a great way to prevent this from happening: ask your interviewer for samples of past intern’s work. Brilliant, right?! If you are interviewing for a PR firm, for example, and their intern description states that interns will be writing pitches or press releases than they should have some samples on hand, right? If not, then that should raise a red flag. Reaching out to past interns on LinkedIn and reading reviews on Glassdoor are also great ways to scope the company out.
2. Try to have some physical or digital takeaway for future use
It is really important to have something to show for your time interning. If you are doing social media, make sure to take screen shots of your most successful posts. Keep copies of articles, quizzes, press releases, and anything that has gotten published on the company’s website, publication, or social media. These will make great additions to your portfolio.
3. Have something interesting on your resume to be remembered by
It is always great to have that “tell me more” moment in an interview. That means something on your resume caught the interviewer’s eye and they are curious to know more. This makes you memorable! For me, it’s my blog (and the fact that I jokingly label myself as it’s “blogger-in-chief” on my resume). Join an interesting club, take up a unique hobby, or heck, start your own blog too. Standing out means being remembered and being remembered could mean getting hired!
4. Talk honestly, but respectfully, about your internships
I had a moment recently that could have been disastrous if I had not followed this tip. Back in October, I was asked by one of my professors to speak about my internship experience to a large class of underclassmen. I was asked many questions throughout the hour session including things I haven’t liked about my internships and worst moments on the job. If I wasn’t careful, I could have found myself ranting about my unsatisfactory experiences. At the end of the session, a girl came up to me and said that she was an intern at the same place I was currently interning! We had never crossed paths because we worked on different days. Imagine if I had said some really bad things about the place and she told someone at the office. Can you say “fired”? Now, I am not saying to lie in these situations but I caution you to choose your words carefully and always think about who could be listening!
5. It is okay to take an internship for experience only
There is a lot of pressure on students to find paid opportunities and internships that give you the most reward but those can be very hard to find. Taking an internship for credit is great but it also costs money! If you want to expand your resume then I find no problem with taking on a job solely for the experience. Just make sure you won’t be overworked or taken advantage of.
Internships are a wild but interesting and educational ride. I hope these tips will serve you well on your journey to amazing careers!