At this point in my educational career, I feel like somewhat of a professional intern! I’ve held four internships - all ranging in different areas of marketing and advertising, but all sharing some commonalities. I have gained value from every opportunity I’ve had - good and bad. What I’ve learned from different internship experiences has always benefitted me afterwards, despite the impression it might’ve left on me.
I started my freshman year as a pre-law major and very quickly realized that it was not a subject that I was passionate about – and certainly not something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. When I decided to change my major, I was unsure of what I wanted to pursue. I didn’t want to make the change and be disillusioned once again. If it was something that I would get a degree in and work in the rest of my life, then it had to truly excite me. My older brother advised me to find an internship in a field I thought was interesting, then ultimately decide if it was something I would want to study. Thankfully, I chose marketing because of my flair for creativity and fell in love with it. To this day, I have no regrets in my decision. Looking back, I am incredibly fortunate that I had that advice.
As valuable as formal studies are to a student, worldly experience in your future field of work is equally as important to your education. It allows you to figure out what you want to do for a living - and, perhaps even more crucially, what you don’t want to do. College is a transformative time in life and, sometimes, you can feel a bit lost. Internships help you find yourself in your career. I’m still learning as I go along, but believe I’ve cultivated some wisdom that may help someone make their internship experience worthwhile.
1.) You’re never too young to hold an internship. When I was eager to find an internship during my freshman year, I completely ignored the criteria of the job description that specified the requirement of being a third or fourth year student (probably against better judgment). Many companies are willing to take a chance if you can prove that you are eager, capable, and ready to show your value to their business. You can do it. My advice: If you can fit it into your schedule, go for it! Don’t wait until your last years of college to take on an internship. More than anything, getting a head start will help guide you and possibly increase your confidence in your course of study. If you realize you want to change your major, this is the time. Moreover, it’ll bide you more time to expand your resume and increase the amount of internships you can take on during your undergraduate career. I’ve heard it time and time again: Future employers are more interested in the jobs you held than the college you went to. Both are dually important, but I recommend focusing on the relevant experience you can gain during those four years.
2.) Every company has something to teach you. And every company has its own dynamic. You should, too! Be optimistic and somewhat malleable when joining a new team. No two businesses are alike. Starting anew can be quite scary, but you will match their pace in no time. You have value to add to a business - whether it’s your personality, your work ethic, or your ideas. In our modern professional world, the cliché of being a “lowly intern” is long gone. Interns are great! Every company is different, and you have endless opportunities to enhance the quality of every diverse experience you have.
3.) Always end with a “Thank You” note. That goes for many things. When you’re done with an interview, when you are trusted with an important task, or when you end your internship, you should send some form of gratitude to your co-workers – usually by way of an e-mail or handwritten note. Goodbyes are bittersweet - trust me! It is difficult to leave a company and group of people after working with them so long, but such is the nature of an internship. Your co-workers will appreciate knowing what this experience meant to you and can use your feedback to tailor their program for future interns. You may also need to reach out in the future for a reference, and it is important to build positive professional relationships in order to have business contacts in the future. Networking is very important in the professional world.
4.) Contrary to popular belief, all internships are not entirely coffee-fetching and shoe-shining. Yes, many internships are task-based. Do not be insulted or surprised by this (I have to admit, I was a little at first). There is something to learn from every task you are assigned. Yes, even through data entry and file organization, you are learning crucial skills that will benefit you someday! Moreover, you are helping the rest of the team do their jobs more efficiently. Do not underestimate the importance of this. Also, patience is worth having. Show your eagerness to learn and work hard at all tasks you’re given, and you will most likely be trusted with bigger responsibilities.
5.) Seek out internships that do not directly correspond to your major. But make sure they are still somewhat relevant. For example, if you are a marketing major, perhaps try to find an internship in public relations, communications, or analytics. All have components that will help you amass a wealth of knowledge in what you’re studying, but differ in criteria. And, again, will help you narrow down your interests when it comes time to start your job search. This will also makes your resume more well-rounded and diversified. You will find that it enhances your skillset immensely. In an interview in a marketing position and your interviewer learns you can code? Well, you now have an edge above your competition! It doesn’t hurt to be constantly learning different trades that may benefit you in the future.
Interning is a student’s first big step into the professional world. It can be daunting – and is surely no small feat. With a positive attitude, a drive to succeed, and endless ambition, you will gain experience and wisdom that will help you accomplish your goals. Deep breaths. Believe in yourself. You’ve got this!
About the Author
Ally Campbell is a senior at Utica College in Upstate New York. She currently studies Business & Marketing and just finished a semester abroad in Florence, Italy. You can find her on Instagram at @allycampbel.