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How to rock your very first internship (from someone who's been through it)

If you’re reading this article, congrats! You’ve made it through the toughest part of any internship: landing the position. That’s not to say that your internship will be a walk in the park, but your new employer wouldn’t have chosen you if they didn’t think you could handle it. As someone who’s completed two magazine internships (including one right here at GL!), I know how nervewracking and unpredictable it can feel at first. That’s why I’m sharing my advice on how to rock your internship this fall.

Do...

Take Notes

Remember that class where you thought you didn’t need to write anything down, only to forget half of the material by the time the first exam rolled around? While internships typically don’t test you on what you’ve learned, you’ll find it’s helpful to take notes.

At my internship with a fashion magazine, I had to learn how to put articles into the website’s content managing system. I wrote down each step in the process, from what size article images should be to how to format text. Later, I was able to use my notes as a guide until I got the hang of things.

Writing good notes keeps you from asking the same questions and shows that you’re self-motivated to learn. You can also write down advice from your boss, your internship start/end dates, or anything else that could be useful during and after your internship.

Be Proactive

When you apply for an internship, you usually have a job description outlining what your tasks will be. As a junior in high school, I applied to Girls’ Life’s editorial internship program. My expectation was that I’d write articles for girlslife.com, as well as creating the occasional poll or quiz—and I had the opportunity to do all of that.

I also decided it would be a fun and valuable experience to contribute interviews to the website. I took a chance and pitched an interview to my editor, which she ended up accepting. By being proactive and requesting an opportunity outside of the job description, I landed my first ever interview.

Don’t be afraid to ask if you can try something different at your internship. Even if your boss says no to your idea, they’ll see that you’re ambitious and ready to try new tasks.

Remember to network

The best resource at your internship is the people around you. Your boss and the company’s staff are a great source of information regarding college majors, career paths and general advice about the job you’re interested in. After all, they were in your shoes at one point.

Don’t forget about your fellow interns, either. An easy way to stay in touch is to connect with them on LinkedIn. Even if it seems like you don’t need to use LinkedIn that much in school, it becomes super-important when you’re looking for a job.

Finally, if you and your boss had a positive experience working with another, ask if they’d mind being a reference on your resume. As you apply for more competitive internships, references are often required.

Don't...

Lie About Experience

As tempting as it is to ‘embellish’ your resume, it’s never a good idea to lie about your experience, skills and capabilities. You don’t want to be asked to do an important assignment your boss believes you can do, only to have to ‘fess up (or try to do it... and create an absolute mess).

The same thing goes for lying on the job. Say your boss asks you to use a software program you’ve never heard of. Your impulse might be to lie and say you’re familiar with it. After all, you don’t want to look like you have no clue what you’re doing. But being honest is the best way to go. That way, you can learn what you need to instead of just winging it—and potentially endangering your internship if your lie is exposed.

Be Afraid To Ask For Help

Being honest isn’t just about admitting when you don’t know how to do something. It also applies to communicating openly with your boss about your internship experience. If you’re ever feeling overwhelmed by your internship duties (esp. while juggling school at the same time), speak up. Otherwise, you might get burnt out.

When finals week came around this past spring, I was clear with my editor about needing to take days off so I could do my best on my exams. You might feel afraid of your boss’s response, but if they’re going to fire you or deny you help when you need it, that’s probably not an internship you want to stay at.

Sweat Your Mistakes

Maybe you saw this viral tweet from HBO Max earlier this summer. The streaming giant noted that a test email was mistakenly sent to their *many* customers by an intern. The tweet blew up with replies from working professionals, sharing the embarrassing mistakes they made during their own internships. It quickly became clear that mistakes (even big ones) are just part of the internship experience.

Once, I wrote an article for the GL website about the best fashion at an awards show. When the article went public, I realized I’d forgotten to resize the images. The article was basically unreadable, with images covering half the page. I quickly messaged my editor to take down the article and fixed my mistake.

You’re probably going to mess up at some point during your internship. Don’t sweat it! It will make for a funny story down the road, trust.

Have any good advice you learned from an internship? Share it with us on Twitter by tagging @girlslifemag!

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by Bailey Bujnosek | 9/27/2021
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