Intern-al combustion

070622-N-6410J-037It’s intern season in the corporate world, the time of year when college students scramble to find summer employment meaningful to their area of study. Candidates seem to be crawling out of the woodwork; I’ve been approached by more people this year than in the past five years combined. Good for me–I get to be choosy.

Somewhere during this process, I realized that many of these kids (ahem, young adults) need some guidance. Big time. Then a colleague and fellow blogger inspired me. He just started a Things I wish they knew series regarding his area of expertise, and I’ve decided to adapt that idea here–for all the intern candidates out there.

So, potential interns, here’s a list of the top three things I wish you knew. Take a gander; they just might help you get better.

  1. Professionalism counts. Even if I already know you, or know someone who knows you, we’re talking about establishing a professional relationship, not a personal one. Our communications–particularly in written form–should reflect not only mutual respect, but also your ability to communicate on a business level. Even in email, grammar, punctuation, and spelling all count, as well as your tone. This stuff goes into your file, whether you’re hired or not. Consider how you want others to see you.
  2. This is a real job. You may be a college student and this job may be temporary, but you still need to take it seriously. You’re laying the foundation not only for your own work habits, but also your future network of supporters. Besides that, this is job isn’t temporary for me. The things I’m paying you to do count and are very real in my world.
  3. The real lessons aren’t in the work itself. If you’re going to intern for me as, say, a graphic designer, you may or may not get cool design projects. Chances are, you’ll get tons of opportunity to design things in your courses. On the other hand, you probably won’t be taught how to make that stuff actually happen. Tasks such as prepping for production, proofreading, spec’ing materials within a budget, archiving files for future use, conforming to brand standards, and making logistics arrangements aren’t glamor jobs, but they still need to be done–and they rarely teach you those things in school. There’s also a lot to learn about the “real world” simply by operating in an office setting. You’ll be amazed at what you learn, and it won’t be what you expected.

I’m sure I’ll come up with a few more of these over time, but these are the most important. I hope you’ll take them to heart; they can make a big difference.

And for those of you who already have this mastered–thanks.

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8 thoughts on “Intern-al combustion

  1. A big YES to that first point – when I’m starting a new project at work, there is nothing that sets my teeth on edge like getting a poorly written email from a fellow team member. Especially if we’ve never worked together before – definitely not the way to make a good first impression!

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