Navigating Your First Internship
So, you got your first internship…now let’s make sure you are ready for it!
Going into your first internship can be a rollercoaster of emotions between feelings of excitement and nervousness. The good news is that the hard part is over. The bad news is that you need to prove yourself now. This can be a scary feeling, but don’t worry – it’s easier than you think! There are five main tips to keep top of mind when navigating through your first internship:
1. Take everything as a learning experience
It may not always be smooth sailing but that is the point! No one enters their internship knowing everything, and the nice thing about internships is that no one expects you to know everything either. Internships are a fantastic opportunity to improve on the skills that matter and learn new things about the workplace in general and yourself so that when you move to post-graduate roles, you have more experience under your belt, and you feel more ready to take on larger responsibilities.
2. Make connections!
This is an obvious one, but one that can be overlooked. Throughout my internships, I made a running list of all the people I worked with and their emails in an Excel spreadsheet and used my lunch breaks to coffee chat as many people at the company as I could. This is something that can be easily forgotten as you get busy with work, but you are literally at your company to learn, so take advantage of as many opportunities as possible and prioritize these connections. Through this, I built better relationships, learned a lot about different roles at the company, and received some excellent advice about careers in general. Everyone has a different experience and therefore, has a unique set of advice that will be valuable to you. Remember, it can be hard to reach out to some of the higher-up executives, but I promise you that sending that email can be very rewarding to you at the end of the day!
3. Ask for feedback throughout
Ask for feedback throughout the course of your internship and on each of your projects. This helps you learn and grow in your skills because sometimes if you do not ask, you will not get anything back, and how are you supposed to improve and be your best if you do not get feedback? Receiving feedback can sometimes be uncomfortable, especially if it is tough feedback, but keep your composure as best you can and use it as a stepping-stone to better yourself.
4. Find your work friends
Starting in your first internship can be quite overwhelming, especially being in a new position at a new company with minimal work experience. This is why it is important to find your people at work to feel more comfortable so that you can be your best. You will be able to find this internal support system relatively quickly; however, you have to remember to put yourself out there to meet those new people. Your work friends will be very helpful to get through your internship as it gives you someone who will understand any struggles at work and allow you to rant about your manager (which yes, you will be doing). Work friends do not need to be those who are your age or even people in similar roles, they can be a mentor as well!
5. Go above and beyond!
Take initiative when and where you can. This may seem daunting at times, but often, when you are new to a company, you see potential opportunities or issues that people on your team may have overlooked. Keep an eye open for these because they always exist. Here is where you can take the extra step to make recommendations and send them to your manager. This is one example of an initiative, but there are many opportunities that may come your way. Take advantage of as many of these as you can and get involved wherever possible, whether that be on a project you may be interested in or even in a company-run event. This gives you the opportunity to make a lasting impression on more people and gain new experiences.
At the end of the day, remember that you were hired for a reason! You are qualified for this role, and although it can be quite easy to forget that or slip into imposter syndrome, it is important to know how much you deserve to be there and how your opinions are valued. That said, make sure not to overwork yourself and prioritize a work-life balance. It can be a difficult transition at first, but with a little practice and experience, you will be a pro at it!