By Latisha Ellison
When you land an internship you expect several, basic things to happen: you will improve and refine your skill set, you will expand your knowledge and you will be challenged with new and exciting opportunities. Something I didn’t expect to learn was that even though you may be the intern, you shouldn’t act like one.
From the moment I walked in the door at my summer internship, I felt like a part of the team. Yes, I was the intern, but I didn’t necessarily feel like the intern. I remember the first time my supervisor told a client, “I’m here with my coworker, Latisha,” and how important it made me feel. It was a small thing, but it made a huge impact on the way I continued to look at my role and the manner in which I conducted myself. Now, I may have just gotten really lucky to work at an amazing agency with great coworkers, but I think the three takeaways I learned can be used in any setting:
Don’t downplay your role
I remember saying to my friend, “Whatever, I’m just the intern,” and immediately wanting to slap myself because I was not “just the intern,” and neither are you. Interns are an important part of the team and we should acknowledge that. The work we do as interns is work that someone else would have to be doing if we weren’t there, so it is a big help to the supervisor. Sure, you might get stuck stuffing envelopes or transferring files one day, but someone has to do it, and that someone might be you. The company wouldn’t have an intern if it didn’t have work that needed to be done. You are valuable, and your work is valued and appreciated.
Work like an entry-level employee
People always tell you that you should treat your internship like a three to four month long job interview-- and they’re right. Show up to work with a smile on your face, ready to do your best work. Every assignment you turn in should be a reflection of your time and energy spent working on it. Show your supervisor you care about the work you’re doing and are applying her critiques with each new assignment. Take the initiative to ask those who might be on tight deadlines if they could use your help. When you work hard and show you care, people will notice.
Use your voice and be yourself
Like I said, treat your internship like a three to four month long job interview for not only yourself, but for the company too. Talk to your coworkers and ask questions to really understand what it means to work at your company and where it is headed. Speak up in team meetings when you don’t understand something or have an idea to share, it shows you care about understanding the company and its vision for the future. Most importantly, be yourself. Let your team know who you are and build relationships with those around you. Sure, they can be great connections down the road, but they could also become good friends. Ask those questions and build those relationships to help determine if this is somewhere you would want to be after graduation.
Internships are crucial to your professional development and it’s very important to complete at least one before graduation. Show up, speak up, work hard and show your team that you are more than “just the intern.”