Lessons From My First Internship
Just a few days ago, I completed my first internship — my first real experience working in a commercial business. The story began long before my start day in March. I started looking for internships during the summer of 2020. For hours I scrolled through various websites, trying to find a position that would be suitable for me. This was no easy task when my options were greatly inhibited by my age, lack of experience, and a global pandemic. But when I stumbled upon Braathe Enterprises (BE), I found an internship that was perfect for me. I would have the opportunity to work as a writer and a business development intern, and as a member of a team dedicated to growing a business. During my four-month internship, I learned countless lessons that will serve me well for the rest of my career. I’d like to share three pieces of advice for those looking to start an internship. So, here they are:
1. Take the Initiative
If you’re applying for internships, you’ve already proven you are capable of doing this. Now, the goal is to apply that same initiative to your work. Often, the people who are providing your internship opportunity won’t have the time to tell you exactly what to do at every moment during the day. On my first day at BE, I joined a weekly meeting for the interns and heard about their ongoing projects. Afterward, I stuck around to speak with Mr. Braathe. He gave me a quick task to work on for the next week, and from then on, I was told that I was free to do whatever interested me and in some way contributed to the company. The sky was the limit. I was surprised by the open-ended nature of this assignment, but I got to work looking for things to do. After an hour of perusing the company website, I had some ideas. I scheduled a phone call with Robert and got to work. Every intern I worked with had the ability to do nothing; no one was forcing us to do the work and there were no consequences for not doing it. What we understood was that this internship was what you made of it. You could show up every day and get stuff done or just sit through it and watch it go by without you. So at your internship (and beyond): start new projects, talk to people, and take the initiative.
2. Work With Others
Never has the phrase “two minds are better than one” been more applicable than during my time as an intern. The people working with me were my support system. During the weekly intern meetings, Robert would have us go into break-out rooms for ten minutes and talk about what we’d been doing and what we’d accomplished. Or, we could just share a little bit about ourselves in hopes of building stronger connections with the people we were working with. And even though the conversations were often unrelated to the work we’ve been doing and between interns working on completely different teams, we were encouraged to work together on projects. And even if we didn’t end up working together, we still bounced ideas off each other and developed creative solutions for different problems. But that’s not all. The people we met would also be there to hold us accountable for our goals. In a self-guided internship, especially one that’s virtual, it can be challenging to stay on task without anyone there to hold you to it. Knowing the people you’re working with allows you to have more fun and be more productive as an employee. So make connections, don’t hesitate to reach out to people, and work with your coworkers.
3. Ask Questions and Be Curious
I must admit that this one I took directly out of one of Mr. Braathe’s quotes. At every weekly meeting, he would have us each come up with a question to ask him or the group. But after a few meetings, this became second nature. We would show up to meetings, talk in break-out rooms, and come back to the main room with questions. He did this to put us into a mode where we naturally listen and learn. Because ultimately, at an internship, that’s what you’re there to do. And if you’re lucky enough to have a supervisor like I did, they will not only answer your questions but encourage you to ask more. So as you go into your internship, explore your interests, ask questions, and keep an open mind.