Internships 101

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1. Never say no.

Saying no to a task given to you is a very bad decision. It shows to your superiors that you are inflexible, and unwilling to try something new and learn, even if that is not the case. If you are asked to do something and you’re tempted to say no because you are unsure of what you have to do, just ask for clarification. By asking for clarification, it seems as though you want to assure success in what you do, and it reflects positively on you, as opposed to the negative inflection from saying no.

2. Ask questions.

Tying in from the above questions, always ask if you need clarification of any sort on an assignment. It’ll benefit you in knowledge, and it will appear (accurately, I’m sure) that you really want to do well on the work that you do. In addition, if there is a specific area that you want to learn about, such as marketing, sales or production, you can ask a person working in that department if you can shadow them. If you’re working in that department already, remember that you can and should ask questions about processes or anything else that you want more information about. The goal of an internship is to learn more and gain experience, so remember to ask questions to expand knowledge.

3. Always try to figure it out.

If you don’t exactly know what to do on an assignment, always spend a little while trying to figure it out before you ask someone. Do you remember the “ask three before me” rule that teachers used in elementary school? That applies here. First, try to figure out your work by yourself. If you can’t figure it out, ask other interns who may have more knowledge in what you’re working on. Finally, if you are out of options, ask the person who assigned this work to you. While I’ve said that asking is a good idea, giving up right away and asking rather than trying to work through the issue and use your resources can reflect badly on you.

4. Leave your personal life at the door.

Honestly, no one at work cares about your night out, or your friend drama, or your overwhelming amount of summer assignments, or your current relationship. My general rule is to not talk about it at all, and to rather focus on discussing work, and future career aspirations. Those are related to work, but can be personal if the conversation leads in that direction. Some people do discuss their personal life at work and it works for them, but I personally find it safer to leave any personally discussions for outside of work.

5. One no, two or more options back.

I admit, I have adapted this tip from countless career advice books and speakers that I have heard, but it has proved to be insanely helpful in all aspects of work. If you are told to do something that turns out to be impossible or unsuccessful, before going back to your boss with the bad news, come up with at least two plausible options. Having two or more alternatives that would work shows that you understand the importance of the assignment and have ways to get around the roadblock you have reached. Your employer will really appreciate it, and it’s likely that your ideas will be used, at least as a starting off point for final brainstorming, if not as a new idea to use permanently.

6. Listen and learn.

While working, avoid plugging into your headphones, even if other people are doing so. When you stay aware and listen to what’s happening around you, you can pick up a lot of new information. Besides learning more about the company, you can learn about certain people’s roles in the company and the issues they may have been facing or the success they had. It’s quite helpful, and a nice learning alternative to asking questions.

7. Connect with people.

When running errands, which you are likely going to be doing, have a positive attitude. The people you work with while getting fabric, coffee or important forms could be helpful to you in the future, and you always want to make a good impression of yourself wherever you go.

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