Be a Better Intern

I was recently informed that I am a good intern.

No, I didn’t hear this from someone related to me who is slightly obligated to encourage me – I heard it from my boss.

Looking back on my Sports 620 KTAR internship as it winds down, here are some actions and attitudes that helped me be successful.

-Show up on time (and if you’re running late let someone know)
My internship required me to arrive at work at 4:30 a.m. This was mind boggling to a night owl like myself, but I set my three alarms, arranged a wake-up call, and dealt with it. If running late, for whatever reason (whether valid or not), let your boss know. It isn’t a fun conversation, but it’s a lot better than the one you would have if you don’t make the call.

-Take notes and listen well
The first weeks of my internship I had about 9,000,000 details thrown at me, and thankfully I had brought a notebook and pen or I would have been completely overwhelmed. Even if you have a great memory, taking notes makes you appear to be a thoughtful intern and your boss will appreciate only having to tell you something once.

-Ask questions
Despite taking notes and listening to the best of my ability, I still ran into situations where I wasn’t sure what to do. I found someone who looked helpful and asked questions. It’s more important to humble yourself and ask a question to maintain high quality work than keep doubts to yourself and just hope you’re doing things correctly.

If there is anything extra you can do, speak up and say you’ll do it. Even if you really just want to go home. Either your boss will be impressed with your initiative and let you do the task, or your boss will be impressed with your initiative but say you don’t have to do it. That, my friends, is a win-win situation.

-Dress correctly
Be an adult and dress respectfully. This is a subjective principle because it depends on where you intern. For my situation, jeans were OK, but I wouldn’t wear shorts and flip flops. Ask your boss for guidance about dress code, and when in doubt dress more formally. You don’t want to be the intern remembered for wardrobe misjudgment.

-Forget that you’re not being paid
If you’re one of the lucky few who snagged a paid internship, I don’t know if we can be friends because I’m jealous. If you’re like me, the internship is all about the experience, and maybe a letter of recommendation down the road. Focusing on not being paid is silly, because you knew about it up front and it will only cause irritation. Internships are about serving and realizing that you are definitely at the bottom of the totem pole. It’s OK. Learn to love the bottom of the totem pole – it will make you work that much harder to get to the top.

So there are my top insights gleaned from being an intern. I know internships vary widely, but these principles are general enough to be applied anywhere.

As I near the end of my internship, I’m realizing that I honestly don’t want to leave. It was at a great company filled with helpful, respectful people so I really lucked out. I learned an astonishing amount over a short period of time and enjoyed the process. I came into it with zero experience and learned that I’m capable of working well in a fast paced, real world environment. The lessons learned, both technical and emotional, are invaluable and have already begun to serve me well.


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