When I was in my junior year of college I attended an Internship Fair put on by my school. It sounded like the responsible thing to do and we were awarded Extra Credit for going.. SIGN. ME. UP.
Throughout college I never thought much about having an internship. I had a part time job and it just never seemed that the opportunity would come along. After attending the internship fair, I was asked to come in for an interview with a self-directed IRA firm for a Sales and Marketing Internship. At first the concept of IRA’s, finance, etc. seemed particularly boring to me; regardless, I decided to give it a shot.
Long story short I was offered a PAID internship with the company and began just three weeks later. Throughout my 7 month internship I learned a lot of information and advice that would benefit me for my future career; however, there were many things I wish I would’ve known during or prior to get me through it.
Here are 4 things I wish I had known when starting my internship.
1. It’s Never The Right Time
When I was called to the interview, I was waitressing part-time at an on campus restaurant, a restaurant I had worked at for two years. I knew that taking this job would require me to leave my “work family” behind and that was a difficult decision for me to make. In the end I knew that taking an Internship would be a major resume booster and a great learning opportunity. Now don’t get me wrong, quitting was NOT an easy thing for me to do. But you have to think about your future and what will be most beneficial for you.
Don’t be afraid of leaving your current situation for an Internship opportunity, even if you’re taking a pay cut, because when you’re sitting in the interview for your first job after college and the interviewer asks, “So what work experience do you have?” You can say you did more than just flip burgers at the local fast food restaurant. (Disclaimer: Don’t quit your paid job for an unpaid internship if it is not feasibly possible. Be realistic.) So even if you have a current job or you just don’t think you have the time, I promise it’s worth it.
2. Don’t Just Take Any Internship
Now this one should go without saying, but make sure in looking for internships you pick one that ACTUALLY has to do with the job you are hoping to some day do.
Example: So you want to be an Accountant? Try to get an internship within the accounting department of a local company, or even an accounting firm its self. Don’t just take the first job you hear of so that it “boosts your resume.” Showing that you had an internship collecting water samples to check for pollution won’t do you a whole lot of good when interviewing for that CPA position.
It is beneficial to do an internship for something that is within the realm of your future career if you can’t find an exact position. If you want to be an accountant but there aren’t any current positions, try to find something at least in the business related field. This will also help you see what kind of other positions are out there for your degree.
3. You Won’t Always Love What You Do
Now this is the big one. When I started my internship, the first week was filled with overwhelming excitement and, of course, nerves. I was eager to get up and go to work each day to learn as much as possible; however, my excitement quickly faded as I was assigned to make “cold calls” and call clients regarding their accounts. I am an extremely outgoing person, but talking to people on the phone really freaked me out. As the weeks went by I became more and more anxious to go to work and would even have anxiety the night before knowing I would have to pick up that phone when I arrived. I feared that I was letting down my team and my boss which was also very stressful for me.
As I am certainly not a quitter, I continued with the job as best I could. One day my manager pulled me in his office and we had a talk about my time there. He knew that I was uncomfortable in this position and that my talents would be better suited doing a different type of work. This was where my internship really took a 180. In the past I have been on many committees to put on charity auctions and dances and due to this they tasked me with helping to plan their annual two day seminar and benefit dinner.
I was my bosses “right hand girl”, in a sense, and helped him in keeping track of event details, coordinating with the hotel, speakers, attracting attendees, etc. And you know what happened? I absolutely LOVED it. I grew a passion for my job and was once again filled with excitement to go to work every day. In the end, the event turned out to be a lot of fun and a huge success.
When I was not doing well at my internship I was afraid I was a failure. For the first time in my life there was a job that I was just not at all good at. But from that I found a passion for marketing, attending events, and planning which I now utilize in my current job daily. It was also great to see what it was like to work in an office environment as I had never really has a “serious” job before.
Sometimes an internship doesn’t tell you the exact job you want to do, but it helps you to learn what you DON’T want to do. And that’s okay. It’s much easier to figure this out in a 6 month internship than once your committed to a full time job.
4. It’s Okay to Move On
Usually an internship has an “expiration date.” Typically they’re one semester, 6 months, etc. depending on the companies preferences. My internship was technically 6 months; however, the company had mentioned multiple times that they wanted me to stay working there even after the event. Unfortunately, I knew that this wasn’t feasible for me as I was taking 6 college classes and would be graduating in December.
After graduation I wanted to move back to my home town so it just wasn’t possible for me to continue this job. I was sad to go but I knew it was the right decision for me. I was very fortunate because I loved the company and I loved my co-workers, but even then, sometimes you have to move on.
Many people take internships in hopes that it will turn into a full time position after graduation, and that’s great! But if during your internship you realize this place isn’t “the one” for you. That is definitely okay and totally normal! Be true and HONEST to yourself and just learn as much as possible.
For some additional tips on organization check out my post HERE!
I hope these tips help someone else out there on their career journey in starting an internship. If you have any questions feel free to shoot me an email and ask!