You Were Chosen For a Reason:
Every person has the quintessential, “I don’t know what I am doing” feeling when they start a new job. It is only natural, as you’re in a completely new environment consisting of client approval rather than grade percentiles. There will definitely be moments that challenge you and even make you question your chosen career path. Your most important asset is how the anxiety is managed, as what ultimately defines the situation is the end result. Therefore look at the long run rather than getting caught up in the moment.
I suggest treating yourself to a coffee, or general beverage/snack, at least once a week to keep your mornings interesting. This especially goes for those who commute; not only does it expose you to new locations around the city, but it also takes the mindlessness out of the daily routine. I am a self-proclaimed, or self-diagnosed, caffeine addict so to me this is essential.
What to Wear:
Attire is important. It is the first impression people have of you and sets the tone. The rule of thumb is usually, dress a level beyond the position you are aiming for. I concur, but my personal thought is that one must gage the social climate and dress appropriately. In other words, integrate yourself with the office culture but maintain a professional appearance. If your place of work is on the casual side, I recommend mixing professional and dressed down pieces to keep the balance.
Going to a Work Event:
This is a great opportunity to get to know co-workers. Be social and make connections. It may be intimidating but I have found most people to be open and friendly, plus casual conversation is a great way to gain insight on the field you are embarking in. Be yourself and be genuine; at the end of the day a real relationship is far more important than a list of completed office tasks or superficial conversation. Enjoy yourself!
Stay Off Your Phone:
To become fully involved and connected with jobs and accounts one should avoid distractions. Put the phone down and get the full experience. Use 100% of your mental capacity and it will pay off with regard to work quality and work relationships.
Junior Associate Mentality:
Think of yourself as a junior associate rather than an intern. People will tell you not to sweat it because “you are only an intern” but I say rise to the occasion. Don’t give yourself a proverbial out. You are working at a real company and the work you do will have an impact in some way, especially if you elevate your thinking.
Pay attention to details and take notes. Observe and absorb the general information and the essence of the gathering. Note the interaction, strategy, attitude, posture, and language. There are so many external and intrinsic lessons to learn, as meetings show thought process, culture, and final result. Always have an opinion about what is being said, and try to contribute when appropriate. You never know when you will be asked about your thoughts, therefore, listening intently is key. Additionally, ask questions to show that you are attentive and interested in learning. If you are nervous ask questions after the meeting or through a follow up email.
When in Doubt, Go for It:
There will be quite a few times during an internship where the opportunity to go beyond what is expected presents itself. Many times it means putting oneself on the line or taking a chance. Admittedly, this is pretty scary especially in a new place. Personal examples of this included emailing my thoughts on an account after sitting in on a meeting, creating a POV, presenting an idea to an art director, and asserting my opinion despite the fact that it challenged the idea of another co-worker. Before every decision I contemplated whether or not I should act, and I went for it. I can say with confidence that it was worth it, as each became a personal victory despite varying degrees of success. Take a chance on yourself, it will pay off and show initiative.
Don’t be Afraid to Stay Late:
Staying late can be daunting. If there comes a time where you need to stay late to get something done embrace it; buckle down and get to work. You want to show your team that you are dependable and dedicated, therefore don’t run out of the office at 5:00pm on the dot. In the process of staying late you may even meet some coworkers who you would not have met during the day. Additionally, if you are working on a project for someone, always check with them before you head out for the day.
Commuting is exhausting and can be mind-numbing. A good percentage of the time I was passed out on LIRR, but for the days when my mind was left wandering I often searched for a way to pass the time. I suggest making a playlists to keep it fun; good music makes every situation better. I also recommend podcasts, as they are a great way to wake up your mind for the workday.
One will quickly realize that time is fleeting, especially if there is an abundance of work to be done. Stay on top of your work and things will run smoothly. Additionally, quality is essential so do not rush through your tasks at hand. It can be hard to say no to projects when multiple people come to you for help at the same time. If you think you can handle more work then go for it, but do not take on more responsibility if quality of work will suffer. It helps to know deadlines and be open; ask your supervisors when things are due and create an open dialogue. Lastly, keep a schedule to keep track of jobs.
Carry a Notebook:
I am a firm believer in carrying a notebook at all times during an internship. You can record what is going on, keep track of work and information, and have a daily account of your internship experience. It is also great for writing down ideas when inspiration strikes.
Quality on one task can determine whether people will come to you for other jobs. Put in maximum effort. Also, do not be afraid to ask questions, as an internship should be about developing your skills.
An internship is a learning experience. Strive to learn as much as possible, and experience all that you can. Ask to attend meetings, look for work, volunteer, and enquire about opinions. Be assertive, in a mature way, and you shall receive.
Think Outside of the Box:
Creative thinking is valuable. As an outsider you do not have preconceived notions/stigmas from the industry and are not assimilated to the general way of thinking. Moreover, you hold a fresh perspective and come from a place of different experiences. Use this to your benefit and go against the grain. Also, some of the most wacky and outrageous ideas can be the best, or at the very least can stimulate thought, so make sure to speak up.
End of Internship:
Meet with your supervisor one last time before you leave to debrief. It can be a great way to gain valuable feedback on your performance and can showcase your progress. Be sure to thank your supervisor, as graciousness goes a long way.