From the beginning of high school to the end of college, it seems as though you can't get through a day without someone lecturing you about internships and why they are the golden ticket to your dream job; your fast-track to the corner office. The pressure of having that resume-worthy experience, coupled with an already full academic load, and an attempt at a social life, can seem very daunting. From the outside looking in, it's easy to polarize internships into two camps: the first, where you're the nameless errand-runner and coffee-grabber, and the second, where there's no room for mistakes.
The truth? Internships really are all they're cracked up to be. They provide hands-on learning, in an environment where mistakes are not only forgiven, but also expected! They are designed to teach, to include, and to provide room for growth.
Whether you're on the hunt for your first internship or just landed one, there are several ways to truly shine as a new professional.
1. DWYSYWD (Do What You Say You Will Do)
Have integrity, have respect for yourself, be aware of what you're realistically capable of accomplishing. Don't bite off more than you can chew, and ASK QUESTIONS. In other words, do what you say you will do! Employers and supervisors are there to see delegated tasks through to the finish. They will notice if you haven't done what they're expecting. They won't notice if you haven't single-handedly taken on a huge side project.
2. Be. On. Time.
It seems trivial, but punctuality is one of the most telling indicators of professionalism, and people notice. Show up early, be on time, and be ready for the day. Your supervisors know that you're juggling a full schedule, and they don't care; work with them to tailor your schedule to something you can stick to (again, DWYSYWD.)
3. Dress to Impress
Oscar Wilde once said, "You can never be overdressed or overeducated."
This too may seem like an obvious point, but it's remarkable how often it is downplayed. While it is true that 2017 is a time of radical self-expression and personal branding, conformity is best in the realm of professional attire. If there's a uniform, wear it. If you think you're dressed too casually, you probably are. You're young, you're new, and so you have something to prove.
4. Be Hungry.
As an intern, your primary goal should be to learn. Anything. Everything. Don't pigeonhole yourself into one specific skillset or study, even if it aligns perfectly with your current career goals, because you never know if and when those may change. If a new project interests you, ask to be a part of it. If a colleague outside of your normal circle asks for your input on something, insert yourself into the situation. Jump, with both feet, into any and every opportunity you can. You never know what you'll learn or where that learning may take you.
5. Most Importantly: ASK QUESTIONS.
In all seriousness, no one expects you to know what you're talking about. It's only when you pretend to know what everyone else is talking about that issues can (and will) arise. If you don't know how to do something, ask someone who does to teach you. If you don't have the answer to a question, utilize your resources to find one. If you can't figure out the solution to a problem, collaborate with others to solve it together.
As an intern, the networking possibilities are endless and the skill-building opportunities are plentiful, but only if you so choose.