Preface by Julie Wright, President of (W)right On Communications: The take-aways our summer intern Erik Sena has shared below will be required reading for every incoming intern at our growing San Diego public relations firm. Erik has been exemplary in his attitude, professionalism and work quality. What he captures below is excellent advice for any new workforce entrant in just about any profession. If you’re a newcomer, take these eight concepts to heart to speed your journey up the proverbial career ladder.
After more than 11 weeks of gratifyingly hard work, my summer internship at (W)right On Communications is coming to an end. As with any other internship, I’m glad to say that I’ve learned a plethora of things during my short time here. Without further ado, here are eight takeaways from my internship here at (W)right On…
1. Mental preparation is key when communicating: In any business-related interaction — whether with a colleague, a client or a customer — it is imperative that you know everything you want to communicate and have an idea of what the other person might say in response. Collect your thoughts beforehand. Jot down notes if you have to. This way, not only will you present yourself as a more confident and knowledgeable individual, but you will also enhance your charisma and public speaking abilities — two things that are beneficial in both the world of business and in life.
2. Always make to-do lists: By far, my biggest savior throughout this internship has been the to-do list. Having all your tasks written down or typed out in front of you is extremely helpful. In addition to preventing you from forgetting to do something, a prioritized task list will also increase your efficiency and ultimately make things more convenient for you.
3. You WILL make mistakes: As an intern, you are still a work in progress; likely possessing elements of potential and aptitude but still a little rough around the edges. I’ve made mistakes these past two months, and as an intern, you probably will too. People always say, “don’t be afraid to make mistakes.” That is true, but you should learn how to properly handle them. Strive for perfection and always try to do a spotless job, but don’t expect to get things right the first time. Making mistakes is acceptable as long as you learn how to correct them. The point of an internship is to learn and grow so you don’t repeat those mistakes once you land an actual full-time job. You’re new to everything — of course you’ll make mistakes.
4. Don’t be afraid to ask questions: Since you’re probably new to everything, one thing is for certain: you won’t have all the answers. Don’t think that by not asking questions people will think that you have it all together. It’s not an accomplishment; it’s just irrational. Why wouldn’t you want to ask questions? To do the best job you can it’s almost mandatory. You want to make sure that you are on the right page and doing everything correctly. Not asking questions also hinders your communication. If you’re even the least bit unsure about something, ask. One important word of advice, however: if you can find the answer to your question on Google, then you probably shouldn’t ask it.
5. An internship is a time for introspection: In addition to helping you grow as a professional within your field, an internship is also about exploration. Before taking on this internship, I — like many other college students — was a bit uncertain about what I wanted to do. This internship gave me direction and a better sense of clarity. If you’re unsure about what professional route you want to take in life, test the waters with an internship. It can show you firsthand what you like and what you don’t about a particular industry. Furthermore, an internship will help you gauge your strengths and weaknesses.
6. Always conduct yourself in a respectful and professional manner: The concepts of “respect” and “professionalism” seem to be foreign to a lot of people. It is important to maintain an environment of mutual respect in the office. Simple things like saying “Please” and “Thank you,” praising your colleagues for a job well done and knocking before entering (unless your company has an “open door” policy) are easily done and make a world of difference. Conducting yourself respectfully and professionally also makes communicating with others so much easier. People will put more trust in you and therefore be more inclined to do business with you if you carry yourself in a professional way.
7. Treat your internship like an actual job: People tend to perceive internships in a negative light; they think that interns are hired strictly to go on company coffee runs and copy-making extravaganzas. Whether or not that’s the case with your internship, do it to the best of your ability. Own it. Regardless of what your responsibilities are in your internship, treat it like an actual job. If you’re tasked to make coffee, then be the best barista the world has ever seen and put Starbucks out of business. If you can’t do a menial task well, then how can you be trusted to take on a major project?
8. Enjoy it: An internship is an exciting and eye-opening experience. Sure, you may not always get the most thrilling projects, but that’s to be expected of any job. There will be slow days in the office. So many candidates would love to be where you are, so enjoy being an intern while you can! Savor the moment and just appreciate all that you’ve learned during your experience.