I’ve previously talked about how important my internship experiences were—I learned so much, and in addition to beefing up my resume, the jobs themselves were invaluable.
I got my first internship after my first year of college, when I still thought I was going to major in Art History. I emailed a local gallery in my hometown essentially offering to be their intern/provide free labor, and they took me on one day a week. Looking back, this was not a valuable use of my time—this position isn’t even listed on my resume because aside from being irrelevant to my career field, I didn’t learn or do much.
One of the biggest things I’ve learned from my experience as an intern is that the quality of your experience largely depends on your supervisor—how willing are they to give you work? Are they going to teach you how to do new things? Will they trust you to do more than stick stamps on 400 postcards? Regardless, from my various internship experiences I’ve picked up several tips and learned a few unspoken rules that all interns should follow.
If a co-worker asks if you can help them with something, write down what they’re asking you. Try to ask all of your questions while they’re showing you how to do something or giving you instructions for a task so you’re not emailing them from the Duane Reade to confirm what size bottle of liquigel Advil they want. This is especially important if you have an editorial internship—why would you ever not have a pen and notepad in your hands at all times?!
That being said, don’t be afraid to ask questions.
I’ve always naturally been a bit introverted and shy, but I can guarantee that your boss would rather you ask five questions and do a perfect job than ask no questions and make five mistakes.
If you wrote a cover letter, had an interview (or two or three), and did an edit test or some equivalent to prove your worth, you deserve to be there. It’s kind of crazy how many people are fighting for the same unpaid internship, so when you get that offer you should feel pretty proud of yourself and know that you have a right to be there, and your boss clearly thinks highly enough of you to want to see you everyday.
Be on time.
I think this goes without saying.
Ask for what you want.
At the end of my final college internship, I didn’t want to leave. I spoke with my boss about the possibility of getting a real, grown-up job there, but unfortunately, the timing just wasn’t right. Even though I didn’t get what I asked for, I expressed how much I loved working there and I think it strengthened my relationships with my supervisors and coworkers long after I left.