Are You Being an “Intern”? Stop!

“Every artist was first an amateur.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Many college graduates – some well after graduation – are working for close to nothing, or free… as interns.

For a lot of us, this position isn’t ideal, yet we keep putting ourselves in the same position – under-paid, under-utilized, un-challenged. Many of us continually blame external forces like the economy or a lack of “real jobs”, not realizing, as interns, we do have control over their situation.

At some point, interns need to stop being “interns”. Or at least thinking like interns.

With consistent effort, we, the interns, have the power to change most anything we wish about our roles.

1)     If we have to fetch coffee, do it with purpose. While we’re getting coffee, take the time to make connections with other employees in the building. More experienced employees – not just other interns.

2)      People our age, just beginning our careers, will need confidants; however, they shouldn’t be our networking focus. Instead, build relationships with people who aren’t our direct supervisors – some of them could develop into mentoring relationships.

3)     There is much talk about friction between Baby Boomers and Gen Y in the workforce – let’s ease that tension. Respect our Boomer co-workers. Ask them for help. Pitch ideas. Remember that we are there to learn – and to contribute.

4)     Show up early. Stay late. Prove that we have a solid work ethic, and we’re determined to accomplish what we say we will. Show our employers (and fellow employees) that we want to gain as much experience from this internship as possible.

5)     If we are working virtually, which many of us are, rule number four does still apply: reply to email in a timely manner and be on instant messenger at (almost) all times. (I leave mine connected on my iPhone so I’m reachable even when I’m not at my computer.)

6)     Go to meetings prepared; have notes ready, ideas to contribute, and suggestions to make. Chances are, our bosses have sent agendas before the meetings – we should all study them and be able to say something productive when appropriate.

These are just a few of the ways we can make our internship experiences more valuable. We shouldn’t limit ourselves to just fulfilling our employers’ expectations! Instead, go above and beyond in every project and task!

While entry-level assignments may seem pointless and tedious, remember that you’re building a career foundation.  And that foundation is better served if we stop thinking like an “intern”.



About the Author: Erica Roberts graduated from Oregon State University in 2011 with a B.S. in Marketing. She is an avid reader and writer, and is extremely passionate about social media. Erica currently holds several part time marketing positions, including a social media internship with YouTern, and is searching for a full time career. Connect with Erica on LinkedIn and Twitter.




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