Intern Life B.I.B. is a series designed to help interns prepare to get Back In Business for the start of spring classes and internships. This week, InternView Guest Contributors will share how they get Back In Business after the holidays for a strong start in the spring.
This is a repost from The Good Intern’s blog. Read more posts here.
Starting a new internship can be scary on it’s own, but starting a new internship and receiving hardly any guidance is a nightmare! Believe it or not, I’ve been faced with the dilemma of having to teach myself the ropes a couple of times. Whether certain employers feel that their interns are self-sufficient enough to figure things out on their own, or just don’t have the time to lay out the welcome mat, the fact is that as an intern you need to possess certain survival skills just in case you end up having to fend for yourself.
A good habit in any situation is to get a feel for the office environment as soon as possible. With a little observation you should be able to tell how employees communicate with each other, what the relationship is like between employees and the boss, how casual the setting is, etc. Being attentive should help you fit right in. If you’re tucked away in a cubicle where it’s a little more difficult to view the interactions, use your initial conversations with the staff to make some strategic observations, or simply ask what you should expect.
Realize when you’re being tested
More than once I have had an employer who seemed to like to “test” new interns, trying to determine how much they can handle. If you are given a pile of paper the size of Mt. Everest to file or are delegated some other impossible task before you’ve even warmed your new seat, don’t freak out. Realize that it might be a test to see how you react in a stressful situation. Overcome the situation by staying calm and working through it. Becoming stressed or anxious will just cloud your mind and impair your judgment. If you’re still being given unmanageable things to do about a month after you start, then you are allowed to freak out.
Ask questions to the right people
Asking questions to clarify a task you’ve been given is never a bad thing. It’s better to be safe and ask rather than to be sorry if you mess something up. At every internship I’ve had, I was able to find at least one person who ended up being my go-to person for questions. This person was always glad to help and understood that it’s tough being new to a company and expected to do a lot of different things right off the bat. Granted, I always found this person through an interesting process of trial-and-error. Try asking several questions to numerous people in the office and it will become obvious who gets disgruntled or doesn’t seem to want to be bothered. Think through your questions before you ask them to make sure that you’re not wasting someone else’s time on something you could have figured out on your own.
Become friends with the old intern… STAT!
The person who will be able to give you the most invaluable advice in the whole company will be… you guessed it- the old intern/interns. Not only do they know exactly what you will be dealing with, but they will most likely be happy to fill you in on the details. If you aren’t given the opportunity to transition with them, ask someone for their contact information and shoot them a quick call or email to introduce yourself. Get their permission to contact them is something comes up you think they might be able to help with, and then utilize them.
Please share if you have had an internship where you had to figure things out for yourself. How did you manage? Did you still enjoy your internship?
Michelle Pence is the author of The Good Intern, a blog designed to offer witty and straightforward advice to college students about interning and preparing to enter the workforce. Michelle attends Missouri State University, and she has held eight internships in the three years that she’s been in college.
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