6 Things I Learned as an Intern

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Summer used to mean a few things: sleep-away camp, s’mores, arts and crafts, and trying to find a dry Speedo.  Unfortunately, for most of us who aren’t Michael Phelps, finding a dry Speedo and swimming our lives away won’t be very beneficial to our futures. Nor will concocting the perfect s’more, made with the most awesomely browned marshmallow ever.

So now, summer means one thing: interning.

Internships are probably the most important thing you can have on your resume these days and summer is the perfect time to gain that coveted interning experience: you don’t have to work around a class schedule and you can really focus on the job. But there’s more to a summer internship than just showing up. If you’ve landed yourself an internship this summer and you want to make the most of it, there are a few things to remember. I’ve been doin’ the internship thing for a long time, so let me share some of my hard-earned knowledge.

1. Coffee really does make the world go round.
Your daily Starbucks run may classify you as the “coffee bitch,” but through the transitive property, your power is greater than you know.  Your boss, their assistant, and 10 other colleagues send you to retrieve their crack-in-a-cup.  It’s their fuel for the day; they couldn’t function without it.  If you failed to get the coffee, the company would fall to pieces, so basically you’re the CEO.

2. The word “no” does not exist.
Kindergarten teachers and parents alike have us fooled; “no” is not part of the English language, it is only a myth.  When asked a question while interning, your answer is always YES.  There is no task that is “beneath” you and you need to be willing to do anything.  If you turn down an opportunity, your employer will view you as lazy and that is one of the worst professional reputations to have.

3. The copy machine has more functions than you think.
Unless super old-school, copy machines can do just about anything.  It may be embarrassing to ask, but make sure you know the extent of this brilliant machinery.  Memorize the name and Google it when you get home.  If you find yourself copying for an extreme amount of time doing an absurd project, chances are there is any easier way to get it done. And when you figure out that way, your superiors will be very impressed.

4. It is OK to lie (a little bit) to get ahead.
We all experience the catch 22: you wont be selected for opportunities if you have no experience, but you can’t get the experience if you’re not given the chance. If you are one of many interns, sometimes it is hard to stand out, and even harder to be chosen for special tasks.  In certain cases, it is OK to pretend you have done something even if you have not.  As long as you are confident that you won’t be completely clueless, you can exaggerate past experience to gain favor over the other interns.

5. Life isn’t by the books.
No matter what industry you are interested in going into, there are certain procedures, rules, etc. that you will learn in school.  Your classes teach you the “right” way to do things, and how things are technically supposed to operate.  One of the biggest lessons you will learn from interning, is that taking a short-cuts isn’t cheating; it’s a very smart strategy.  Interning teaches you how things are really done, as opposed to how they’re supposed to be done according to your textbook. These valuable lessons are ones you can’t learn in a classroom.

6. Have no regrets: internships that you dislike are just as important as the ones you do like. You may find yourself hating an internship and complaining that it is something you NEVER want to do.  That’s great news.  The best way to find something that you truly want to do, is ruling out the things you don’t want.  There is no way to find out until you try it, so gaining this knowledge is so important.

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