As many begin their internships and dive into the work, they quickly discover that their expectations were a little off.
From what you must wear, to the demonstration of your work ethic, and all the way to how deadlines are perceived in the workplace… they are surprised how different the internship learning environment is from that you’ve become used to in the classroom.
Here are some ways your internship varies from what you’ve experienced at college:
1. Your Wardrobe
In college, your dress code is sweatpants casual.
What most college students love about being in college is the fact that you have the freedom to express yourself however you want. If this means rolling out of bed and wearing your pajamas to class, no one is going to penalize you. On the same note, you’re probably used to getting away with wearing jeans and a nice top for business casual, too.
At your internship, it’s business casual.
When you start your internship, what you wear speaks loudly. If you show up to the first day of your internship wearing jeans, your new manager might ask you to go home and change.
In the professional world, there are strict guidelines about what you can and cannot wear. For most internships, business casual will require you to wear black or khaki pants, dress shoes, and a nice shirt or blouses. There will also be times when you’ll be expected to wear business professional, which means wearing a suit. Before your internship, be sure to find out the dress code and stock up your wardrobe with the pieces you’ll need. This will help you make a great first impression on your first day.
2. Your Skills
In college, you use what you learn in the classroom.
As a college student, you’ll have endless lectures and textbooks to teach out about what you need to know in your field. However, what you learn in the classroom is really only the foundation for your career. Your classes give you just enough information to get you comfortable with your field and prepared for an internship.
At your internship, you’ll learn and apply new skills.
When most college students begin their internships, they’re shocked when they end up not using anything they learned in the classroom. On the other hand, you might realize your classes really only taught you the fundamentals of your field, not the actual tools the real world uses.
It might be a little overwhelming when you learn new skills and tools during your internship. The best way to approach this obstacle is to listen closely to your manager, ask questions, and take notes.
3. Your Work Ethic
In college, you can slide by with doing bare-minimum work if you choose.
When you’re in the classroom, professors may be a little lenient with missed deadlines. Sure, while you might get a few points marked off from your final grade, your professor will still want to help you pass the class.
At your internship, laziness will get you penalized.
Although most managers are understanding when it comes to interns and their work ethic, your boss will expect you to stay focused and work efficiently, just as any other employee. You’ll be expected to have a can-do attitude and put in the effort to go above and beyond. On the same note, if you don’t work hard, it could cost you a reference, letter of recommendation, or even get you let go.
4. Your Attitude
In college, you won’t get in trouble for complaining.
College students love to complain about studying for tests, writing term papers, and simply being in school. Although it’s fairly normal for the average college student to complain from time to time, this attitude doesn’t fly in the real world.
At your internship, your negative attitude will be noticed.
If you complain about your work or have a negative attitude, your manager and coworkers will definitely notice. They’ll take your attitude as a sign that you’re not interested in your internship nor do you want to be there. Regardless of how overwhelming your workload becomes or the number of tedious tasks your assigned, keep up a positive attitude and stay focused on your work.
5. Your Deadlines
In college, professors are sometimes flexible with late assignments.
When you miss a deadline in college, it doesn’t harm anyone but yourself. The only penalties you face are earning a bad grade, disappointing your parents, or failing the class. While these missed deadlines can hurt your classroom performance, no one else is affected by your work.
At your internship, a missed deadline could penalize you and others.
In the real world, missing a deadline is serious business, especially when you don’t give your manager a heads up. Although most managers are flexible with deadlines, you need to communicate with them if you’re going to be late turning in an assignment. Deadlines in the professional world translate into sales and reputation. If you plan on missing deadlines, you should plan on being penalized for hurting the success for your employer.
6. Your Schedule
In college, you get to pick your schedule.
One of the perks of being a college student is scheduling your classes around your needs. If you’re a night owl, chances are you’ll want to sleep in and schedule classes for later in the afternoon. However, when you get to your internship, your schedule will revolve around your employer.
At your internship, you have to show up early and work late.
Internships are an entirely new ballgame when it comes to scheduling. If you’re working a full-time internship, you’ll be expected to work normal 9-to-5 office hours. In addition, you shouldn’t be surprised when your boss asks you to come in at 7 a.m. to work on a project or stay until 9 p.m. to wrap up your work. Oh, and there’s no being tardy for work, unless you want to be reprimanded by your manager.
7. Your Workload
In college, all your assignments are planned ahead of time.
At the beginning of every semester, your professors provide you with a wonderful syllabus with everything you need to expect for the semester. Most professors usually stick to their syllabus, which helps you plan for the semester.
At your internship, your assignments can be sporadic.
During your internship, you’ll probably have an idea of what objectives you’ll meet and projects you’ll be assigned. However, you should expect to be assigned projects at random, even when you have a busy workload. Internships teach you how to multitask in order to prepare you for the real world. Make sure you’re prepared to take on anything at any time during your internships.
As you can tell, there are a number of differences between what you learn in the classroom and how you perform in the real world. Internships are a great way to apply your knowledge and skills, but keep in mind that your internship may teach you something you’ve never learned before.
For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at HeatherHuhman.com!
About the Author: Heather R. Huhman is a career expert and founder & president of Come Recommended, a career and workplace education and consulting firm specializing in young professionals. Follow her on Twitter at @heatherhuhman.