#TBT: Lessons I Learned As An Intern


2011 T. Howard Foundation Intern Cohort

Happy #TBT!

With summer in full swing, I’d be remised if I didn’t show love to all of the interns working hard all across the land. Back in the day when I was an intern (okay, three years ago), I remember the excitement that came with starting fresh at a new company in a new city, and how eager I was to learn. Paid or unpaid, internships offer college students the first taste of ‘the real world’, and I will always and forever be an advocate for those experiences.

From the cool swag, to the official email address and of course, all of the free food, each of my internship experiences was unique and special. I was also lucky to make a number of my great friends, and learn a lot about myself (both professionally and personally) in the process. For those of you that are just starting your summer internships, here are a few lessons that I’ve learned, and continue to apply to my career today:

1. Always ask questions (no matter how stupid you think they may be) Closed mouths don’t get fed on this boulevard, honey. So many times I’ve witnessed interns (and some early career professionals) be afraid to ask questions about a task or procedure. Chile, then why is your supervisor getting paid? I’m not saying being a complete pest and as ALL of the questions, but don’t be afraid to seek information. Remember, you aren’t going to know everything the first day, so if you don’t know something, ASK! And don’t be sorry for it either 😉

2. Prepare to come early, and stay late. Sure, you’re job description says 9 am to 5pm, but there will be nights that you will have to work until 8 pm to prepare collateral for a huge client meeting that is at 8 the following morning. And you know what? It be like that sometimes. Just look at it as you putting in work for the long run. #CornerOfficeDreams

3. Be open to learning new skills and enhancing ones you’ve already got. In every internship I had, I was always sure to express that one of my strengths is in social media. But I never expected to learn how to pitch a story, build a media list or capture web analytics. Main takeaway? You’ve got to be flexible. One day, you may be entering numbers into an Excel spreadsheet, and the next you could be meeting big names on Capitol Hill. All of these experiences are building up to prepare you for something great that lies ahead.

4. Actively seek mentors. This could be your direct supervisor, the head of another department or the company’s CEO. Make time to have 15 to 20 minute coffee  meetings with these individuals, simply just to chat about their careers or to ask for any advice. I’ve found that people  not only love to talk about themselves, but they also are more than willing to share life lessons that they’ve learned too.

5. Make mistakes, often. Nobody’s perfect, and as an intern, no one expects you to be. But after a few minor mishaps, you will hopefully start to gain momentum and get into the groove. And who knows — you may find a new way of doing things in the midst of correcting your mistake.

6. Be social, but don’t over do it. People can always tell when you’re trying TOO hard, so just be yourself. It means a lot when you take time to say good morning to the receptionist, your fellow interns and other employees next to your cubicle too. Not only will this help you build new relationships, but it will leave a long-lasting impression on the organization that you are working for.

7. Embrace the experience, and give it your all. This one opportunity could open doors to many more in the future, so always put your best foot forward. There’s something that comes with being an intern — while it may be different and challenging at first, your perseverance, focus and dedication will be greatly appreciated by the end of your experience. So take it all in, Intern! 🙂


To my fellow early and mid-level career professionals, what lessons have you learned as an intern? Send me a tweet or leave a comment below. And to my intern friends, may this be the best summer yet — good luck!



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