In between juggling a ton of classes, activities, and relationships; the end game in college is finding a job. But the hard truth is, a lot of times, work life is boring. It doesn’t matter how cool the company is, or how much you like your job, it’s just not the same as college life. But you still gotta do it, and it usually that starts with landing a good internship. So how do you make the best of trying out different internships and “dating” different companies? Well, there are some really important, yet subtle things you should consider when looking for an internship – whether it’s to avoid, take advantage of, or proactively make better. Here are some things that, in my experience, really define how well you work and how much fun you have at an internship.
1. Your desk mates
Notice how I didn’t say “coworkers” in general. Sometimes as an intern, the majority of your work is solo and you rarely interact with most of your coworkers. One thing that made my internship great was the people I sat with. In a huge company with around 3,000 people, on a floor of about 100, I was lucky enough to sit next to 3 employees who constantly cracked jokes, made me feel comfortable, and were there for me if I needed anything. Some of my friends at other internships said they sat in an area where everyone was out of office more than half the time – pretty lonely. I was able to do work and take short breaks to have a laugh or a conversation with my neighbors, which was SO needed for someone like me who can’t sit still for 8 hours a day.
2. Your boss
This is a pretty obvious one. You want to have a great relationship with your boss, with the perfect balance of fear and respect. My boss was super important and super busy, but he always made time for me, and always encouraged me by giving me the real, honest truth. That made me respect him enough to call him up only when I needed him, and made me nervous enough to focus on doing a great job and impress him with my work ethic….which made for an awesome performance review. I have heard stories where bosses are incredibly hard to schedule a meeting with; I would have gone crazy having a supervisor who was so busy that a relationship could never really be formed.
3. A mentor
While it may be hard to determine before hand if you will have some sort of mentor during your internship, it might be worth asking about. This is especially so if you already know that your boss is someone who is hard to get in touch with. If you work in a big company, they likely have a mentor or buddy program where they pair you up with a younger employee who you can talk to about anything. This is where you vent, rant, and question everything you can’t talk about with anyone else. Yeah, sometimes your paired mentor does not fit your personality…at all, but you have to make use of them anyway. And if there’s no formal program, ask anyone and everyone you know about recent hires who you could get lunch with and eventually ask to be your mentor. Otherwise, you’re just walking in the dark.
4. Your desk location
Ok, sounds minor, but think about looking outside a window every few minutes versus a wall. Enough said.
5. The office location
While the office location may not necessarily be a deal breaker when looking for internships – it’s something to consider. If you don’t plan on driving to the office, look into the public transportation system and make sure there is an easy route to get there. Also, if you are thinking about potentially living in the area after graduation, working near the part of town you are interested in will help give you a better idea of the lifestyle and general vibe of the area.
6. Your fellow interns
You kind of need other people at your level to hang out with once in a while, and to share experiences with. If you are working in a tiny company, you may be the only intern which could leave you feeling lonely and unsure. Ask before hand how many other interns are employed with the company and if you will be interacting with them at all. If you will be the only one, don’t let that deter you completely. There will still be opportunity to meet other young professionals, you might just have to be prepared to put yourself out there.
7. The intern program
Again, this is probably something more common in a bigger, corporate type of company. Where I was working, the recruiting team provided a ton of activities, workshops and lunch ‘n’ learns for the interns to attend. Half of the interns stopped going after a while, presumably because they had more “real” work to do. But me and a friend unofficially decided we weren’t going to say “no” to anything. We literally went to every workshop offered, even if they were totally irrelevant to us. People recognized us as “those” interns – but we loved it. Our attitude was, “Why not?” Long story short, when you’re an intern, always be a yes (wo)man!
This one can go both ways. I know interns that were constantly forced to be at meetings that they didn’t need to be at, taking away from time to do their actual work. And then there was me, who was staring longingly at my computer screen until a calendar notification came up. Someone wanted me! Yes, yes, a thousand times YES! I loved being at meetings because it made me feel like I was actually a part of what was going on and gave me really good perspective on my own tasks. I get that a lot of them are annoying, so the right balance can make for a good experience.
9. The actual work
So my constant struggle was running out of things to do. And my boss not having anything for me to do. And me begging the entire floor – “Please sir, can I have some mo’?” But honestly, that is what you have to do. Beg and beg and beg some more. Someone’s bound to have something for you to do. It is most definitely awkward, and embarrassing, and you get rejected a lot; but it’s worth it. In the end you will stand out because you went out of your way to put in the effort. Also keep in mind that it IS an internship – the work itself might not be the most exciting thing in the world. But here’s the thing – no matter what tasks you’re assigned, it’s up to you what you’ll do with it. Which brings me to…
10. Your attitude
Yeah, I saved the cheesiest for last, but hear me out. The only thing that makes crappy work more crappy is a crappy attitude. Color coding spreadsheets has to be done by somebody…so instead of rolling your eyes at the mundane task, take it as your time to shine. Put your own spin on things and create a signature move that shows off your skills and personality. An internship is a chance to grow professionally and as a persona as a whole – so whether you’re fetching coffee or adding names to an excel document, throw on a smile and make the best of it!
In the end, the small things add up. While not every single one of these aspects will be what you were hoping for in your internship, consider which details are the most important and go from there. If you really think about each of these different aspects of your potential internship, you are more likely to find one that you will thoroughly enjoy!