This post isn’t meant to help you score your perfect internship – an internship is your own experience. It’s supposed to give you that bittersweet taste of the real world. It’s what we’ve all been waiting for since the day we walked into our first post-secondary class.
With internship or entry-level work experience in a variety of environments ranging from an elementary school hockey tournament to a National Hockey League club, I’ve noted a few reoccurring themes. Now, in my second internship with the Pittsburgh Penguins, I’ll try to share those with you to help prepare you for that first opportunity with an organization.
Put on the Work Boots
When they said the hard work starts here, they were right. As an intern, you’ll have the opportunity to be involved with a wide array of projects. Don’t be surprised if the job description that you applied for has nothing to do with what you do day-to-day. Last summer, I showed up for my first shift with the Penguins expecting to be working on the youth intermission game programming but my first task was counting inventory; my second was writing an article on a nine-year-old hockey team. By the time I had started to work on youth game programming, I had completed projects with the marketing, operations, and accounting departments. When it comes to internships, be ready to work and be ready to do it all.
Copies and Coffees
Yes, there are still people in every workplace who view interns as their personal assistants. From making photocopies to sorting old files, they’ll try to solicit your services any moment they can. The bad news is that you’ll have to give in to these people at the beginning. The good news is this doesn’t last forever. Of course, this doesn’t mean you’re a glorified slave. It takes dedication and hard work to gain the respect from your co-workers to ensure the projects you’re receiving and the work you’re producing is meaningful to the organization. Don’t be discouraged when someone asks you to make a copy or grab a coffee. It comes with the territory of being at the bottom of the totem pole. With hard work and determination, you’ll show your superiors that you have what it takes to advance to the next level.
The Yes Man
Eventually, you’ll realize that it’s impossible to say yes to everything that is asked of you. Once word of your arrival travels through the office, you’ll be bombarded with co-workers asking for your help. If you complete their tasks quickly and correctly, this problem will only get worse for you. While your first instinct will always be to say “yes” when a co-worker asks for your assistance, get in the habit of asking the key question: “When do you need this done by?”. Not only does this show your colleague that you’re organized, but it may bring forth a deadline that is unrealistic and would have set you up for failure.
Be Confident, Not Cocky
In business, confidence is everything. Whether it’s being confident in the product you’re selling or being confident in your own ability, your confidence can be the make or break of taking the next step. Employers are continually promoting the acquisition of employees with developed “soft skills”. Soft skills such as social skills, character, and confidence are skills that are near impossible for an employer to teach. If you demonstrate to your employer (or future employer) that you hone some of these skills, you instantly make yourself more valuable, putting yourself one step closer to that entry-level job.