How to Prepare for Your First Internship

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3 min read

Your first internship is a crucial stepping-stone in your professional life.  For many students, it is the very introduction into their professional life.  Internships are truly invaluable experiences that directly show you the difference between a teenage part-time job and a “real” job, so to speak.  Many of the elements that make these types of jobs distinct from each other are obvious, but there are also many elements that you can only understand by literally going through it.

Landing an internship in the first place is no easy feat, so be sure to pat yourself on the back for accomplishing that step.  Also, take comfort in the fact that the people at this company/organization have already selected you, meaning they clearly feel you’re qualified and are already impressed with you on some level.  You have already proved you deserve to be there – now it’s just up to you to prove you want to be there for the right reasons and are eager to follow through on those reasons for the entire duration of your session there.

Now, what are the right reasons?  Well, first and foremost, you are there to learn.  Make it clear that you are genuinely excited to go there every day and want to do as much as possible.  Different supervisors have different plans for their interns, so the types of tasks you will be assigned will vary depending on the particular internship you take.  Some may only involve mundane, assistant-like duties while others may welcome you to tackle bigger projects head-on.  The important thing to remember is that regardless of what these people have you do, make sure they know you’re open to doing more and that you want to do more.  Sometimes a company may feel interns can’t handle anything more important than what they’ve been assigned, but don’t take it personally; they just need to look out for what’s best for the company.  But the point is that they will be impressed with your initiative and excited demeanor about the respective profession.  And regardless of the specific tasks you perform, you will be learning something no matter what.  Just make sure you pay attention.

You are also there for the experience itself.  Again, you may not be allowed to literally execute as many big work-related processes as you would like, but you will gain so much from just being in the office’s environment.  It is vital that you soak up the atmosphere and really gain an understanding of what it’s like to be a working professional in this particular field.  You are there to observe how this company works and how the employees interact with each other in order to achieve their various goals.  Communicating with professionals via email and studying up on the internet will not give you as clear an idea of the working world as physically being in it will. 

Finally, you are there to help.  Always say yes, never say no.  Whether you’re being asked to get coffee or call a client, you are helping in some way and therefore making some processes easier for employees, no matter how slightly.  Also, don’t always wait to be asked; sometimes you can do the asking and find out if anyone needs help.  Supervisors are more likely to remember interns who were positive and proactive before they remember ones who were constantly bored and waiting for instruction.  This may feel a little frustrating since it’s easy to fall into the trap of being too nervous to do anything you weren’t told to do, especially if the supervisors barely give you anything to do.  But this is the adult world, so you should be representing yourself as an adult and not a kid.  This is not to say you should ever make assumptions or go against a supervisor’s wishes – being respectful is vital, and in all seriousness, you are still an intern.  But it is better to try/ask and get turned down than to say nothing and wonder if you could have contributed more. 

And of course, make sure you are professionally dressed throughout all of this.  Making it obvious that you own nothing past a teenage wardrobe can really hurt your image as an intern.  In the end, remember that taking full advantage of an internship will put you light-years ahead in terms of being ready for a full-time job after graduation.  Digest the world around you every minute you are there.