What I Wish I Had Done As a First-Time Intern

How to get the most out of a valuable opportunity

By Published on .

Jessica Mendoza
Jessica Mendoza

As a first-time intern, a topic I was familiar with was being discussed and I sat quietly listening to executives try to come up with solutions as if they were picking them up from a hat. My mind was bursting with ideas, I knew I could contribute something, I even worked entire solutions to arguable questions in my head, and by the time I decided I was going to talk, the meeting had ended. At that point I thought to myself well who is going to listen to an intern anyways -- that thought was one of the thoughts I regretted the most out of that internship.

I believed internships were just to take on tasks and learn from doing rather than contributing to larger problems. Now as a veteran intern, I know I was wrong. I have a piece of advice I would give to my younger self and to any students new to the internship world:

  • Explore your creativity. Test the company's boundaries by promoting ideas that may shift a project's direction for the better. Sometimes employees who work on projects over long periods are overwhelmed with information and are likely to use the same techniques they have used in the past. Use your understanding of the project's scope to bring fresh ideas to the table. Also, as a rule of thumb, always make sure your ideas are backed by relevant research and are in line with what the company wants to promote.

  • Perfection doesn't get a letter grade. Trying to constantly perfect a project you are working on may be seen as wasting time on details. Open your eyes to the bigger picture and be aware of your projects' priorities, your manager's time, and your deadlines. Your manager is more likely to appreciate good quality and speedy work than perfection. Present a draft before a finalized copy to your manager, by collaborating with your manager you'll get a better understanding of his or her expectations and you can produce work that both parties are satisfied with.

  • Be pragmatic. Situational scenarios that you learned on your textbooks are unlikely to reappear with the same constants in the real world. Understand your company, the client, products or services, the industry, and audiences you are working with so you can better tailor your answers and work. Get out of your comfort zone and make educated suggestions about your project assignment without relying too strongly on theories you learned in class.

  • Speak up. Have an idea? Then say it. Even if you think it is dumb or nobody will pay attention to you, share them with your team. Otherwise, you'll never know when one of your ideas will be the foundation for a larger project, and if that's the case you'll get a secure job offer not only in the company you are interning with but other companies will gain interest in you, too.

  • Enjoy your vacation time. Once you are out of college and enter the job market you'll realize that those precious summer days are gone, spring break is none existent, and you are going to have to go home for a shorter period of time when the winter holidays come around. Take advantage of your vacation time while you have it and most importantly have fun.

About the Author
Jessica Mendoza is a 2010 graduate of Hofstra University where she pursued her BBA degree in Marketing and minored in Philosophy. After graduation, Jessica took a position as a Project Coordinator at Kantar Media. Jessica manages the company's digital and event marketing efforts, and is responsible for the launch and promotion of the digital product suite, including online video and tablet ad monitoring solutions. In her spare time, Jessica consults at Madecasse Chocolate and volunteers at the Advertising Women of New York (AWNY), New York Women in Communication, and the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF) Young Pros.

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