5 Helpful Tips for College Interns

As I’ve mentioned before, I had two internships this summer, and while that was a little stressful, both were very helpful. I met a lot of wonderful people and have gotten to try out what it can feel like to freelance as well as to work in a publishing house. Both internships ended on Thursday, and while I was not the perfect intern (who is?), I did pick up some tips on how to become a better one:

1. Pay Close Attention

No duh. It doesn’t take a genius to figure that out. However, after you start sliding into a rhythm, you can often forget to be as precise as you were when you were applying for the internship itself. For example, on my proofreading test for one of my internship applications, I spent probably an hour on the draft. Now, I would spend maybe 20 minutes on it. Getting faster wasn’t the bad thing though—it’s the fact that I could catch myself skimming where I used to slowly read aloud. I started getting sloppy, and I had to remind myself to take a second (or third) look through a draft before sending it back to my supervisor. Because whenever I did, I inevitably found a dumb mistake.

2. Ask Questions

After a few forays into journalism, I discovered I definitely have some innate curiosity. But that doesn’t mean I always do a good job showing it. In a world with Google, it can feel silly to ask questions of your colleagues since you can usually find it online. And that does take discernment; however, when you ask serious, genuine questions of your supervisor and colleagues, you demonstrate you’re interested in learning more than just the obvious.

Plus, after a while, you don’t have to ask as many questions because your supervisors anticipate you. For example, at meetings in my publishing internship, there were a lot of acronyms used where I had no idea what they meant. I asked enough questions in the first meeting though that in later meetings, my colleagues would automatically just tell me what the acronym stood for without my having to ask.

3. Accept Your Standing

This is the hard one. Because as you begin climbing the ranks in college standing, you forget what it’s like to be at the bottom. And then suddenly you’re reminded of your intern status when you’re given a lot of menial tasks to do. And even though it can feel cruddy sometimes, don’t complain, but be grateful for this opportunity.

This will do wonders on your attitude. Admittedly, there were times this summer where I was not the happiest camper with some of the tasks I had to do. However, it helped to remind myself that I was just so happy I had these internships in the first place. And as one of my supervisors reminded me, it’s just part of being at the bottom of the food chain again. Things won’t always be like this. It helps to remember feeling like this too because then when you’re at the top, you can remember what the bottom felt like. Besides, by doing menial tasks without complaint, you further build your work ethic—you learn how to do work you don’t enjoy with a cheerful disposition. And that kind of attitude is valuable to any employer.

4. Write It Down

I tried to keep a running list over the summer of all the tasks I did as an intern. After a couple months and dozens of tasks, it can be easy to forget about all that you’ve done, so write it down as you go. This helps you see all you’ve accomplished, and it also provides for reminders when you’re updating your resume and LinkedIn profile.

5. Say Thank You

You may or may not be paid. You may or may not have really kind, appreciative supervisors. (I did, and I can’t tell you how much it helped my self-confidence.) But either way, appreciate them both in your actions and your words. Your employers have given you a chance to prove yourself in a professional setting—keep your attitude professional by thanking them for their time investing in you. (A handwritten card after your internship ends isn’t a bad idea either.)

What tips do you have for interns?

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