What it Takes to be a Great Intern
We have all been there at one point in our lives, or maybe you have yet to hold that coveted position of an intern thus far! In any case, while internships may seem like a drag when all you want to do is jump knee deep into a brand new job position or career path, internships serve as pivotal growing moments for us individuals who are just beginning to find our niche.
Take this quote by Olivia Wilde for example, “I got an internship with the casting director of “The Girl Next Door,” I would hold the clipboard and help them in their casting sessions and get them lunch. Now I’m doing a film festival for kids and writing a script about a kidnapped journalist in Afghanistan.” What you are doing now may not be what you will want to do in five years or even five months, but it will pay off!
After a lot of brainstorming and researching on the topic, we have formulated a compiled list of what we believe it takes to be a great intern!
1. Be a go-getter, but one who is not afraid to ask questions.
When starting an entry level job, especially as an intern, it is important to keep in mind that your ambition and drive influences those around you. Come to the table with ideas and be ready to give it your all! Understand that your ideas hold value and you wouldn’t be sitting in the desk you are now if your boss and other colleagues didn’t have faith in you! It is important to remember, however, that with everything you do you want to do it correctly; so if something is stumping you, take the time to do the job right and ask your superior if this is what they had in mind. Not only does this show you respect their opinion, but it shows that you care enough to do your job properly.
2. Have strong writing and speaking abilities, but also know when to stop talking.
As you venture into the marketing and PR fields, you will become more and more aware of how important it is to be a strong writer. No one wants to read boring articles and everyone wants to read something that’s grammatically correct. So, stay on the safe side and proofread everything double the amount of times you think it needs to be checked; then do it once more. Nothing is more embarrassing than handing your supervisor an article that you vow to be, “completed” and within 5 seconds of reading the paper, he/she finds a mistake. With writing abilities in check, also know when it is your turn to speak and when it is best to put yourself on mute. If you are invited to dinners or lunch-ins, contribute to the conversation! You are already known as “the intern,” don’t make yourself even more awkward by not speaking! With that said, know when to, for lack of a better word, shut up. Try not to blabber on in conversations that do not involve you or which you can not positively walk away from; if you have a hunch that something is risky to say or that you are carrying the conversation, you probably are and probably should have stopped talking 5 minutes ago. Know your boundaries and respect and acknowledge the opinion of others and you will be just fine.
3. Be able to take instructions, but do not rely solely on them.
This is something we have been accustomed to since we were little when our parents taught us how to cross the street. They stopped holding our hand decades ago but are we still following the same general guidelines: look both ways, wait until it’s safe, and never run into traffic after a moving ball. The same is true for any task you are assigned. Follow the general guidelines given and complete the task using your own best judgment. Follow basic criteria for meeting the requirements of the assignments, proofread your work, double check that you have done all you need, and do not get carried away; keep it simple, keep it innovative and give it your best nod. If you do that, chances are you are going above and beyond what was expected of you.
4. Last, but certainly not least, be able to learn from criticism, but never to internalize it.
The meaning of the word “intern” directly connotates “beginner” and “temporary”. You are expected at this level to make mistakes. If it wasn’t already anticipated, they wouldn’t have hired you for the level of the position. So, when you make mistakes (because you will) take the criticism as a gift and use the advice toward your advantage to get it right the next time. One the best pieces of advice came to me from a soccer coach and I still refer to it every time I find myself being criticized for a mistake I made. He said, “If I didn’t care about you, I would let you mess up and I wouldn’t tell you that you were doing something wrong. I would let you fail because I didn’t want you to win.” The same is true for your supervisor. Odds are that if they are taking time out of their busy day to let you know something you are doing is off-key, it is because they believe in you enough to know you can fix it and to know you are still the person they want to handle the task they originally assigned. If they didn’t care, they would let you fail and they would hire someone different to get the job done.
While this list may seem extensive, know that what this list ultimately boils down to is having enough belief and trust in yourself. As, Elle Woods in the movie “Legally Blonde“ once said, “It is with passion, courage of conviction, and strong sense of self that we take our next steps into the world. Remembering that first impressions are not always correct, you must always have faith in people, and most importantly… you must always have faith in yourself.”