A good internship can be the segue from the lecture theatre in Z Block to a corner office with river views (OK, maybe not straight away). However, a bad one, well, that may leave you knocking on the door of the career counsellor and questioning your life choices.
But like the saying goes, it takes two to tango and a successful internship doesn’t rest solely in the hands of the company sharing their desk space with you – you play an equal (read: massive) part in how it goes.
After two successful internships – one leading to my now full-time job at Media Mortar – I wanted to share my thoughts on how to intern like a #boss.
1. Pick a company or brand you’re interested in
This may go against other advice you’re given – but I believe you should be measured in your decision with where you decide to intern. When I started looking, I naively thought I would try anything and everything until I found my Cinderella-slipper internship. With the benefit of hindsight, don’t waste your time applying for an internship with a company who may not share your values, or you have zero interest in the work they do.
2. Don’t be afraid of the boss
My second internship was with a large media agency, and there were three big bosses (the partners), who sat at the top of the food chain (in company structure terms). Yes, they’re important people in the organisation, but they are [usually] very approachable (and just normal people too). I’m not saying walk in with your morning coffee, pull up a chair and ask ‘how’s tricks’, but if you see them in passing or find yourself riding the elevator with them don’t be afraid to have a chat. Even if it’s about the weather…
3. Make an effort with everyone
It may seem obvious, but a ‘hello’ goes a long way. Just like the big boss/es, it’s important to be noticed for all the right reasons. Making an effort isn’t just confined to the tea-room either. Although you’re (likely) not getting paid, you’re still part of the team, so act like it. If you get asked to go to lunch, take the team up on it. If there are team drinks on a Friday, but you don’t work on Friday, go in for them. If nothing else, it’s another opportunity to make yourself known to the team – who in a social setting usually have a lot more time to get to know you.
4. Put your hand up for additional tasks
If you’re in a smaller company this will likely happen naturally, as you will be doing anything and everything. However, if you find yourself in a bigger organisation then make it known you’re happy to help wherever needed. I’ve never met a busy person who won’t take you up on the offer to do a coffee run or make their life easier. If you want to secure a permanent position or have a solid referee then show them your worth and that no job is too big or small!
5. Be flexible
If an opportunity arises outside the scope of what you expect to be doing, roll with it. You might learn something about yourself or discover an interest you weren’t aware of (or more importantly, just not good at). During my second internship, I was told I was going to sit with the creative team for a day. Don’t get me wrong, I love creative work…but these guys are seriously talented creative professionals *insert mild panic attack*. Instead of having a meltdown, I rolled with it and surprisingly loved it, so much so, I didn’t want to leave the creative bubble, ever.
A final note, as a mature graduate (in age) there’s one thing I had on my side walking into my internships: I understood the value of people and the importance of interactions. Afterall, having solid interpersonal skills is one of the top skills sought out by employers – even more so than hard skills. I’ve overheard my boss say many times, “hard skills I can teach you, but I can’t teach you how you make people feel”.
Internships are not only a means to gain real-life experience – they may lead to your first job in the workforce.
What are you waiting for? Go intern like a #boss.
By Rochelle Vaisanen
When not climbing mountains on two wheels, Rochelle can be found on the hunt for the best almond croissant around town. A lover of good coffee, food and wine, and with a passion for travel, Rochelle is always on the lookout for new adventures locally and abroad.