How to Make the Most of a Summer Internship
Written by Paige Dawson Rodriguez on Tuesday, May 10th, 2016
It’s that time of year once again: summer internship season. This month many college students will begin summer jobs in their field of study, so let’s dust off a blog from last year on how to be a great intern.
This time with a twist….from the voice of MPD intern and millennial Kristina Relja, who joined our team last fall and is continuing for summer. Here are her insights:
After working at my first internship for two semesters, now onto my third, I’ve learned valuable in-office and quite a few life lessons. As a marketing and PR intern, I completed hundreds of hours of computer-based work such as: tracking media mentions for companies, drafting and posting content on social media, occasionally drafting a company blog post and countless hours creating lists of people to reach out to or for specific events, newsletters or media pitches.
In those rare lulls of client, or what we call billable work in an agency environment, there was downtime that was filled with mind-numbing tasks: making umpteen copies, handwriting addresses on note cards (horrible for this millennial), cutting and labeling photos, ordering and unpacking office supplies, or simply organizing hard-copy files.
The number one lesson I learned; always be hungry for work. Even if it is dull or tedious, there is always something to be done.
As a millennial who had never worked in an office setting before, I learned how to fax a letter, weigh and stamp postage, and come to the conclusion that my cursive handwriting is almost useless. These small tasks, along with the major marketing and PR duties I’ve learned, have taken the knowledge of my major further than I envisioned from an internship role. I also realize that I know close to nothing compared to someone who is 10 to 20 years (or more) my senior. Every day I learned something new be it style and formatting, marketing lingo, or simply how to proofread a document.
My mentor, Paige Dawson, gave her Top 10 Tips for Interns (which I read before I interviewed, whew). I’ll add my millennial take here.
- Secure at least one internship in an agency setting. This being my first internship, I have learned that each company, no matter the size, operates in its own way. Not only have I gained insight on the day-to-day activities in my own office but also in our clients’ offices. I was able to sit in for conference calls, work with our clients directly, and provide behind the scenes support. Getting to see more than one culture and company has been a great benefit.
- Show up on time or call if you’ll be late. Enough said. Millennial or not, this tip should be common sense. Apparently some of my generation didn’t get that memo since Paige added it as a tip. So, embarrassing.
- Always bring a pen and paper into our meetings. The number one, most important thing is to WRITE EVERYTHING DOWN. I am incredibly grateful that I am a pen-and-paper kind of gal. I love keeping lists of everything I do or have done. Also, it’s great to go to instructional meetings for your next project with pen and paper in hand. Mostly so that your boss doesn’t repeat their instructions more than once (or worse, don’t be the intern who asks to borrow a pen and paper), but even more so that you don’t forget to actually finish the project itself.
- Realize that there is much admin-related support work. Your attitude about an internship really plays a large role. If you are dissatisfied doing assignments that aren’t directly related to your ideal career, it will make your internship unbearable. The admin-support related work breaks up your day and often times, you learn life-skills that aren’t typically addressed. I even played with a toddler who was out of school early for an hour while her mom was on a conference call. Helpful to understand that the job description bullet point, “other duties as assigned,” can vary widely. Attitude is everything!
- Look for ways to wow us in your work or with your ideas to streamline any processes. In this field, the best way to wow someone is to make sure you get work done correctly and on time. Using spellcheck and grammar check is also important, even on an internal email; small things make a difference. Prioritizing your work will get you far. If you do make a mistake or fail to meet a deadline, make sure that your boss knows you’ll avoid it next time. And, be ready for lots and lots of constructive input; the scale of rigor and perfectionism in the real-world is much greater than in school projects.
- Ask questions, especially if you don’t understand an assignment. Many interns fear asking employers questions because they are worried that they won’t seem smart enough or that they are unable to understand or recall instructions. It’s hard to swallow that you do not understand how to do everything you’re given, but it will save both you and your employer time if you ask questions first. Peers…set aside your pride and fear that you will look foolish; it seems our employer’s know this is all new to us.
- Respect the office refrigerator and food. Self-explanatory. Again, I’m embarrassed for my generation that a common sense courtesy was lost on some.
- Send a thank you note…or even an email. This blog is my thank you note, well one of them...I’m going to try my cursive writing again! I am so grateful to work at MPD Ventures and thank the team for keeping me as an intern for two semesters. They make my job interesting and teach me something new every day. I am also thankful that a friend and previous MPD intern, Hayley Hammonds, ran into me and told me about the position.
- Maintain the relationship. Follow ups are a crucial part of being an intern. These can lead to networking and potential job opportunities that you wouldn’t find unless you have been personally referenced by your employer. Plus, it helps even in college; my internship is a direct result of keeping up with friends (see #8).
- Start and build your LinkedIn profile now. Since working for MPD Ventures was not my first job, I had already created a profile on LinkedIn. But after managing profiles here for clients, I have learned that it is important to keep it updated, post articles and share content related to your career, and add new folks to your network. And dear peers, please don’t use a party-style photo as your head shot. I’m working to spiff up mine this summer.
As an incoming senior at SMU, I will be looking to start my career soon and will gladly take advantage of tips 9 and 10 now. To learn more about me and my qualifications, view my LinkedIn profile. I wish the best of luck to the upcoming interns and hope that they can benefit and reap knowledge from this article.
If you are a student seeking an internship and feel you’re fit for MPD or know a good candidate, please contact us. While our roster is full for the summer, we always love to know good candidates and are happy to refer you to our friends.