Want a Successful Internship? Here Are Six Tips to Follow

Internships are a catch-22. Sometimes you get paid, sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you’ll get a job after several weeks of working, sometimes you’ll never see or hear from these people again. Sometimes people will treat you like the “help,” sometimes they will take you under their wing to mentor you. Whatever the scenario, your internship is what YOU make of it and can become as big or as small as you want it to be. Whether you’ve scored a summer stint interning for the company of your dreams or you’re one of hundreds of young people who made it into a formal program, there are a few things you can do to stand out and make sure you have an awesome experience.

UNDERSTAND NO JOB IS TOO SMALL 

Back in the day, it was common for interns to get coffee, pick up dry cleaning, or even walk their boss’ dog. Unless the job description includes running personal errands, you’re typically not going to be asked to do these things today. However, that doesn’t mean that you won’t be required to do things below your “brain power.” Menial tasks are given to interns for two reasons. First, no one else wants to them and secondly, managers are testing you to see how easily you complete the simplest tasks. For example, if I ask you to make 10 photo copies of a 12-page document with front and back copies, stapled, and collated, I want to see that you can pay attention to detail, that you can work the copy machine by yourself (you would be surprised how many people cannot) and that you can complete the task in time. You may think it’s just making copies, but a good manager will use it as a stepping stone to determine the level of your skill set. Managers are also watching your attitude to see if you will take on menial work projects enthusiastically. The better you are at the easy stuff, the more comfortable your boss will be at trusting you with larger, more important projects. Trust me…do this well, and you won’t be making copies for long.

IF YOU MAKE A MISTAKE, OWN IT!

An internship is intended to be like a science lab. It’s the practical application of everything you’ve learned in the classroom finally put into action. With that said, there should be somewhat of a teaching environment and the expectation is that you won’t get everything right at first. Most managers will have that mindset and be understanding when you make a mistake or error, but being understanding only goes so far. Try not to make mistakes habitual or you will be labeled the intern who can’t ever get it right and as a result, no one will trust you with an assignment for the remainder of your time there. But if you make a mistake (whether big or small) own up to it, learn from it, and make sure it never happens again. You’re playing with the big boys and girls now and that often means taking maturity seriously. The worst thing you can do is not take responsibility for your mistakes or, even worse, try to pin it on someone else. Even if you can live with yourself after doing so, someone will inevitably find out. A lie of omission will not only get you terminated, but it could get you blackballed in the industry you’re trying to break into.

GET TO KNOW ALL THE PLAYERS

You will likely be assigned to one or two people or even a division where you are working for several people in one group. Step out of your comfort zone and talk to people beyond your manager or the group who are assigned to. Once you’re in the company, find out who the major players are and send them an email explaining how much you’re enjoying your internship, what you admire about the company and your goals for the future. Don’t email them with the expectation of getting anything other than making their acquaintance and make it known that you’d love to be a permanent part of the team in the future.

Once, I had an intern who contacted the CEO of our company. Doing so led to her asking if he would be willing to speak to the summer intern group, which he did. The CEO of one of the biggest media companies in the world provided personal insight and stories to our group of summer interns, something no other group in the company received. If it had not been for that one young lady, it would have never happened.

SOMETIMES COMMON SENSE PREVAILS 

As I’ve said earlier, internships are a keen opportunity for people to learn about careers within a specific industry. It’s the chance to find out if you really want to take the long stroll down this professional path or maybe it’s not a good fit for you after all. It’s OK to ask questions to ensure you are doing things correctly. It’s even OK to ask for feedback on your performance after a few weeks. However, there are times when you should use the sense God gave you and figure things out for yourself. The “small stuff” shouldn’t become your manager’s big problem, especially if it is something you could have easily solved on your own. Part of being a good leader is knowing when to handle a situation and when to call your manager in for reinforcement or help. If you’re unsure, ask another intern or someone outside of the company for quick advice before going to your manager.

STAY MEETING READY

Do you know how many times I’ve called interns into my office for a meeting or invited them to other meetings that often-times included my boss and had that person show up empty handed? If you are ever invited to a meeting, take a pen and small notebook with you to take notes. I guarantee you will NOT be able to retain everything that is said. And yes, I realize pen and paper are old school. Many of you may want to bring your phone or your tablet instead. Here’s the problem with that; I don’t know if you’re playing Solitaire or actually taking. Unless you’ve been granted permission to do so, I would keep the digital devices to a minimum. Keep it simple and purchase a small notebook where you include everything from meeting notes to to-do lists to who to call when the copier goes down.

LOOK THE PART

Your internship is an opportunity for you to transition from being a student to a professional. The easiest way to do so is to dress the part. Before you start your first day, you should ask about the dress code. Is it a conservative office where suits, hosiery and ties are the norm or is a business casual look more preferred? Even if your office is cool with your wearing jeans, I would keep it to no more than twice a week. Your manager and everyone else on the team already has the job they want, so they may tend to be more relaxed about their appearance. Remember, you’re still trying to convince people to hire you. Taking your appearance seriously is the kind of “extra effort” that will make you stand out and let your manager know how sincere you are about your future in the company.

BONUS!!!

Don’t forget to smile. Being in an internship around amazing people can be intimidating. While you should be humble, grateful and even serious about the opportunity, people want to know you enjoy being there. Don’t forget to smile, look at people in the eye and offer a sturdy handshake upon greeting them. Now, go ahead and conquer the world!

 If you want more internship advice, send me your comments or hit me up on Twitter @WendyLWilson_

 

 

 





 

Nice Guys Finish Last

Barack Obama is a decent man with a million dollar smile and that may be one of the reasons why he completely failed in last night’s Presidential debate. I have to give this one to Governor Mitt Romney, who didn’t have a knock out but did give a strong, intelligent, assertive and borderline aggressive attitude as a debater. He has gotten better and improved from months back when he was going against the other men (and Michelle Bachman) vying for the GOP nod. But with that said, one has to take into consideration all of the things that President Obama had to overcome last night.

  1.  It’s been four years since he debated anyone. He is clearly rusty but it’s not like the man hasn’t had anything to do. Running the country takes up a lot of time as opposed to Romney who has had the last four years to prepare for this night.
  2.  The only person who says no to President Obama is Mrs. Obama. This is a man who is not used to anyone publicly saying, “you’re wrong.” Yea he’s used to Republicans saying it behind his back but never directly to his face. He was clearly caught off guard.
  3.  He spent too much time writing down notes and not enough time giving Governor Romney the evil death stare. Instead the moments he did look Romney in the face, he delivered a smirk and a few times a wide-toothed smile. Stop looking so friendly to the man who wants to take your job away from you.
  4. What in the world was up with Jim Lehrer? He sucked as a moderator. Old journalists sometimes don’t want to admit it’s time to put down the microphone and take up the golf club. The pasture is calling your name Mr. Lehrer and it’s time you picked up the phone to answer.
  5.  The format of this debate is ridiculous. Four minutes for this, three minutes for that. It seemed to me that Lehrer couldn’t control either Romney or Obama during the debate. In the vain of former radio shock jocks Star and Buckwild days, if you talk over a certain period of time, your mic gets turned off. Why doesn’t the moderator have that type of control?
  6.  This debate was supposed to be about domestic policy issues and yet all of the major social issues like immigration, women’s rights, abortion, voter fraud, and the disparity between people of color and everyone else in this country were never addressed. How do you talk about domestic policies and not talk about the issues that most affect people in the country? All that rhetoric about taxes went over my head. I’m not economist so I need you to plainly say will you raise my taxes or not? I’m a single, childless woman with no assets. I already pay more taxes than I should so I’m all for the guy who is going to give me the break. I still don’t know who that is by the end of the back-and-forth between the two candidates.
  7. I’m all for bipartisan cooperation but I don’t care enough about that to make it one of the debate questions, especially the concluding one. Perhaps FOX should produce a show looking for the next American Political Moderator.  I’m sure you’d find a better choice and someone who could come up with better questions that what we heard last night.
  8.  Romney’s all about money, money, money. Yes, it is important for the President to know as much about the economy as possible, but I want the President to be as comfortable and clear in his/her message about social issues. Romney stayed on point with all that money talk because that’s what he knows. President Obama has people to advise him on economic issues. He’s not a moneyman and should have taken his opponent off topic.

In the end, there were so many missed opportunities and I do think the majority of people will give this one to Romney. My advice to the Obama camp would be to figure out how to get him fired up with coming off as the typical “angry Black man.” Those of us in the Black community understand why he had to fall back and come off as his usual nice guy self, but you know what they say about nice guys.

 

Knocking on Mia Love’s Door and No Answer

Yesterday was day two at the Republican National Convention. After walking around the convention center, the only Black folks I saw were either media or those who work there. I finally found two Black women who very astutely explained to me why they are proud members of the Republican Party. I have to say, some of the points they raised were interesting and down right accurate. Do I think the Republican Party is racists, well yes. But so are a lot of fraternities, sororities, corporate businesses, boutiques, supermarkets, etc. Republicans have their rotten apples as do the Democrats. At the end of the day, what matters to me most is who is going to best represent my interests as a single, Black woman.

Last night at the forum, I was suddenly bombarded by the fact that I am no longer “attractive” as a Black woman. I’m not talking about beauty. I’m talking about the fact that Blacks are no longer the minority of choice. Today it’s all about the Latino vote. It used to be if you had someone Black in your organization, you met your quota. Affirmative Action started with us but Latinos today are truly benefitting it. If you look at the RNC lineup last night, there were at least three Latinos shepherded out to speak on the benefits of being the child of immigrants who worked hard, scraped and saved, built their own businesses and found the American dream. Well, as a first generation American myself, the child of immigrant parents who worked hard, scraped and saved but my parents didn’t have the resources or know how to build their own business and as a result were stuck working for others. Nonetheless, those message resonated with me. What I didn’t like were the negative rhetoric pushed by the RNC participants. The “it’s time to tell that man to move back to Chicago” mindset. I think you can get your message across without attacking your opponent but I never took debate so maybe I’m wrong in saying that.

It was nice to see Ted Crus, Mia Love, Artur Davis and Nikki Haley out on the stage pushing the Republican agenda. But I still don’t feel like I matter to this party. Maybe if Mia Love, one of two Black women Republicans to take the stage at the Convention (the other being Condi Rice) gave me the interview I asked for, I’d have a different opinion. I don’t like it when people who should obviously be talking to me don’t. It’s my reporter ego at work so sue me.

My RNC Experience

Bad weather kept most people either indoors or away from the few RNC events that actually happened today. Every television station in Tampa is either covering tropical storm Isaac or the fact that people can’t do anything around the convention because of Isaac. All I know is the power went out for about 2 hours in my hotel today after I just finished telling someone that the weather wasn’t all that bad and then lightening and thunder proved me wrong.

At the convention center earlier the big reveal was the start of the debt clock–a huge alpha board of numbers that indicates the national debt and the amount that debt had risen from the start of the convention. The whole point is to show how President Obama has recklessly spent tax dollars and continues to do so. I’m sure there are more bells and whistles to come.

Speaking of bells and whistles, tomorrow will be the day that the Republicans try to compensate for time lost. The Mayor of Tampa is expected to speak but I’m looking most forward to hearing Ann Romney. She’s potentially the next First Lady and has tremendous shoes to fill should Michelle Obama be replaced. I recently heard he talk about the time she was so ill with MS that Mitt crawled into bed with her and after over 40 years of marriage, those good old feelings are still there. One things for sure, she has patience. Any woman married to the same man for that long has to have the will of God. I wonder how comfortable she has become living in his shadow? I guess we’re about to find out.