Internships are generally given a pretty bad rap. Before this internship, the word made me think of scared little college students running around doing grunt work, making coffee runs, and being verbally assaulted by angry bosses. That’s really not what it is at all. Unless you’re in a movie…which you’re not…sorry. It’s actually the fun part of working. We get to play grown-up without actually being grown-up. Think of your internship as a way to dip your toe in the water, and see if you like it.
In case you didn’t figure it out from my last column, I accepted the internship position at Next Step Academy. I submitted my application on a Monday, they called me for an interview on Tuesday, and by the following Monday I was offered the internship. That was in December of 2014, so I’ve been with Next Step for almost five months now.
I work there three days a week, for three hours at a time. My main job is to write online courses for our website. My supervisor is the director of curriculum for the company, and before I came on the scene, she was the only one writing the courses, so my work got started right away. I’ve written about 20 “Careers In” courses since I’ve been there, like “Careers in Psychology” and “Careers in Law.” Essentially, these are online courses that take you through the steps you need to take to become a psychologist, lawyer, paralegal, nurse, etc. Every day is a new day, because every day I’m exploring new careers (whether they personally interest me or not).
Once I landed the internship, I almost fooled myself into thinking the work was over. I was in! Well, I was wrong. This internship was a bit of an adjustment for me, and I had to work a little harder to meet their expectations. I love writing, but I mainly focus on creative writing, and writing whatever I want to write. This internship does not allow me that freedom. I had to learn how to infuse my personality into courses that are entirely research and fact based. My writing skills have increased ten-fold, or maybe just my confidence in my writing has. Either way, I’ve already seen the fruits of my hard work, and my internship isn’t even over yet (I was asked to stay on with them for the summer).
Ok, so it’s time for some more advice. Once you’ve landed your internship, don’t let yourself think the work is over. This is as important as a degree required class. C’s may get degrees, but you won’t get any good references out of that. Go to your internship when you’re supposed to be there, work hard, and try to be enthusiastic about your work. Who knows, this could turn into a permanent position after graduation.
Your first mission as an intern: assimilate into the organization’s culture. How does one accomplish this, you ask? Well let me tell you. Take note of how people dress, interact with each other, interact with people outside the organization and such. During my first month at Next Step, I always wore very formal business clothes—blazers, slacks, high heels, collared shirts…the whole nine yards. I finally realized that my coworkers didn’t dress nearly as formally as I did. I slowly turned down the business-ness of my outfits. Don’t get me wrong—I would never think of showing up in a t-shirt and sweatpants, but I learned that sweaters and nice jeans are just fine in the office.
I also noticed how everyone interacts during the workday. Most of us work in one room at our own desks, and I work with all women. Chatting and background music is the norm. So me staying completely silent during the day would make for a very awkward situation. Instead, I learned that when my coworkers are singing a Salt-N-Pepa song, I can belt out right along with them (all the while getting my work done, of course). Whether the office you intern at is quiet and focused, or laid back and social, do your best to integrate yourself into the team. It makes you that much more valued. Plus, then you can put “adaptable” under “skills” on your resume.