HEATHER IS A CREATIVE PRODUCER IN NEW YORK CITY. HER VOLUME OF WORK EXPANDS TO WEB SERIES, FEATURE FILMS, LIVE SPECIAL EVENTS, AND NON-PROFIT PRODUCTIONS. SHE CURRENTLY WORKS AT THE CAUSE MARKETING AGENCY, PHIL & COMPANY, AS A CAMPAIGN MANAGER AND PRODUCER.
Internships. Everyone says you need them for credit, experience, or your ticket to getting a job after college. All of this is true. When I was at the University of Arizona, I wasn’t required to have internship credit, but I knew if I didn’t graduate with at least one on my resume that I would be light years behind everyone else. But internships can often be expensive, especially when you’re not getting paid and if you don’t have parents to help out then you’ve got a lot of hustling to do. All of it begs the question, is it worth it? Well, is it?
Over the summer, my office recruited half a dozen or so interns to do real work. No fetching coffee or picking up dry cleaning. These students would be pitching stories, developing editorial calendars, writing social media content, creating digital marketing promotions, and learning the ins and outs of managing a global campaign. Yeah, they weren’t getting paid and there weren’t many perks, but they would be learning and most importantly, getting the experience that entry level jobs are looking for. After 12 weeks, some interns impressed us, leaving with recommendation letters and potential job offers, others were a complete disappointment, and many may as well not even bothered.
Bottom line: You could tell who cared and who didn’t, which matters.
Internships are entirely worth it if you’re will to do the work, but if not then stop wasting my time and better yet, yours.
For all of you about to enter your first internships, here are a few tips on how to survive.
1. Don’t Complain.
- Never express hesitation or say “No”. When you’re young, you have to pay your dues. Complaining is the quickest way of telling me you can’t handle it. If you don’t want to be here then we’ll find someone who does. It’s that simple.
2. Don’t be late.
3. Weekly Check-Ins
- Ask your supervisor if you can setup a weekly meeting to discuss what’s working and what isn’t. If you were promised work in X and it hasn’t happened yet then you should say something, but don’t slack off on your work because you’re not doing what you initially thought you would be. Some internships aren’t a good fit and these meetings will determine that.
4. Ask Questions
- The first thing I tell all my interns is to ask questions if they’re confused or having trouble with something. It’s better to be cautious then to do something entirely wrong or spend all day trying to figure it out. Mistakes happen, but part of growing in the workforce is knowing when you need help and communicating that.
5. Understand That Your Work Matters
- Engrain this in your mind. Some interns will have weeks where they’re not learning anything new, but rather learning how to master their main tasks. It can get boring if you don’t believe that what you do matters. I’m here to tell you that it does. Without you, who else would be doing this work? Me, your supervisor. Guess what, we already have a lot on our plate so you being here helps us a lot. That’s the bigger picture. You make my life a little easier and that could be important down the road when you’re looking for a job.
6. Be Accountable
- Interns always want more responsibility and there’s nothing that irritates me more than an intern saying they’re going to do something and they don’t. You gave me your word. I trusted you to do it. Follow through. Meet your deadlines. Failure to do so is not only disappointing, but may result in being micro-managed (I hate that). We’re all adults here and we’re on the same team, let’s work together.
7. Stay Focused.
- I imagine some workplaces are stricter than others on this. In a world of constant distractions like our phones and Facebook, it’s difficult to discipline ourselves. I’m guilty of checking Twitter throughout the day, but there’s a time and a place for it. The same goes for you. Your top priority should be getting your work done. If you absolutely must respond to that comment on Instagram, do it quickly, but I better not find you wasting large amounts of time on Pinterest if you owe me work by the end of the day.
8. Be Observant.
- If you’ve never worked in an office before then take notes. This is the perfect place to learn how co-workers communicate with each other, problem solve, deal with clients, act in meetings, and overall learn how an office functions.
10. Go to Lunch
- Networking in your office is important. You never know where people are going to end up that might be an opportunity for you. One of my interns over the summer asked nearly every person on the staff out to lunch to ask them about their careers. He wanted to gain insight and wisdom. That’s awesome.