Internships are super important, but starting your first professional experience can be scary. I was in my second year when I got my first internship, and I had the same worries that many interns do.
“Is this email too friendly or not friendly enough? I don’t feel I’m getting the experience I need, but how do I bring that up with my supervisor?”
These insecurities can be difficult to overcome, and at the end of the day, experience is the true solution and will help build confidence. There are, however, some tips I wish I would’ve known going into my first internship.
1) Schedule one-on-one meetings with your supervisor, and often
These chats help to develop your working relationship with your boss/supervisor, and will help you gauge what is expected of you and increase your comfort level when interacting with them. Supervisors appreciate initiative, and scheduling a meeting to cover your progress in the job, your stuck points and where they think you could improve, will not only build your confidence but make you better at your job. One-on-one meetings also make your supervisor less intimidating, and alleviate some of the stress from a power dynamic you may not be accustomed to.
2) Get to know your coworkers
You will be spending a LOT of time around your coworkers in an internship, and even more once you graduate college. Getting to know these people is essential, and the more you can relate and learn about them the more comfortable they will become around you, and vice versa. Reach out to them and make conversation even if you don’t want to as it will increase your comfort and confidence in the workplace. Don’t forget, if you have questions on how to start these conversations our career counselors at Career Services are here to help, so feel free to make an appointment.
3) Ask lots of questions
Some interns may feel they are being irritating by asking too many questions, however I have found that it is better to be persistent in trying to understand a project than performing it incorrectly because you did not have sufficient direction. There is a mass amount of information that you have to retain when starting at a new organization, and coworkers do not expect that you will remember it all after the first day. Everyone always has lots of questions, so don’t be afraid to ask.
4) Confide in someone and advocate for yourself
Being a new person in the office is hard, but being a new intern with no prior office experience is worse. Speaking with other new interns or coworkers who recently had the same experience can be helpful in normalizing your concerns and feeling more comfortable at work. When I initiated a conversation with another intern in a previous position about some concerns I was having regarding my work, I immediately felt validated and had the confidence to speak to a supervisor about those concerns. This vastly improved my experience in that internship, and was a crucial part in ensuring I was learning everything I could and utilizing my skills to their full potential.
Internships are critical in developing your resume and giving you access to opportunities you otherwise would not be qualified for right out of college. While this isn’t all you need to know, it is a good place to start. Reach out to our career counselors with any questions about how to find/create an internship, or apply to the Work U program for a special opportunity with a career instructor to help you through the experience. As an intern try to be open minded, take risks and work hard, and soon you’ll exceed your own expectations.