After completing four internships, I have learned that interns are very concerned with the do’s and not the don’ts of an internship. From my experiences, I have come to understand that the don’ts are as equally important as the do’s.
To break it down a bit more, here are my three don’ts that I learned as a student practitioner:
Don’t take anything personally
Working at different companies, I have realized that with every professional setting comes an array of unique personalities, some bigger and bolder than the last. People’s ways of doing things will occasionally conflict with your ideas and experiences that you bring with you to your internship. It is your job to integrate yourself into your workplace and learn how to understand what people really mean when they communicate with you.
Take for instance, one of the senior account executives at Martin Waymire who is one of the straightest straight shooters I have ever met. I was nowhere near accustomed to this type of personality when I started at my internship here and for a short time, I genuinely thought she didn’t like me.
Guess what? She likes me! She has actually been a huge part of my growth at Martin Waymire. She just tells it how it is. I had to get over myself and learn to actually hear what she was communicating to me rather than worrying about her very direct style.
Lesson learned: If you understand people’s personalities, you will know not to get offended when their communication style is different than yours. Plain and simple! Invest some time in getting to know the people to work with.
Don’t overthink it
You can give yourself a major migraine with all the stress from overthinking everything that happens at your internship. But there’s one sure way to avoid that – don’t be afraid to speak up. If you have a question, ask! If you don’t understand something, ask! If you need a second opinion, please ask!
I can’t stress enough the importance of letting people into your thoughts. Your brain can only take so much! Sitting there and stressing yourself out with your thoughts racing around doesn’t do any good for anyone. Get up, get out there and communicate your thoughts to your coworkers.
If you don’t like how things are going, say so! If you want to share an opinion on something, do so! If you want to give a compliment, give away!
Another one of my supervisors has a very calm and quiet personality. Sometimes, I forget she is in the office even though she sits very close to me. When I first started working at Martin Waymire, I was always afraid to start conversations with her because I wasn’t sure whether she just didn’t like being distracted or she was just too busy.
After working here for almost four months, I have slowly but surely learned that she is one of the nicest people you would ever meet. She just enjoys the silence. If I need her, all I have to do is get her attention and she’s always such a big help to me. Did I mention that we have a lot in common too? Simple right? Wrong! I sat here for weeks, overanalyzing everything!
Lesson learned: The issues that we overanalyze are usually very trivial. I feel like the best advice for any situation that may cause you stress is to speak up.
Don’t worry about fitting in immediately
I remember feeling so out of place when I first started working here in January. I was used to starting out with at least one other new intern, but for the first time in my work experience, I was the newbie.
I also remember sitting down with one of my former supervisors and venting to him about how I felt like the outsider and how my personality didn’t really fit into this new work environment. He laughed! I’m serious, he laughed.
He assured me that my feelings were valid and he also felt odd when he first started working with his current employer. Like me, he was also the youngest when he started out, but that was the best part of the experience. He had a different perspective and experience and so did everyone else and because of that, everyone brought something unique to the table.
I suddenly understood that, just like him, I would eventually work my way into the group. And I did! It’s very normal to want to fit right into the system when you first start in your internship, but my advice will be to hone into your unique experiences and use those to integrate yourself into your internship.
Lesson learned: Everyone has something special to offer during an internship, including you!
Nichole Igwe is a student practitioner at Martin Waymire and a senior at Michigan State University majoring in journalism with a double minor in public relations and French. Previously, she worked as a DJ for MSU’s student radio station, Impact 89 FM; as a design intern for the Old Town Commercial Association; and as a communications intern for the Michigan Democratic Party. She most recently was a student project assistant at Lezotte Miller Public Relations Inc.
In addition to her internship experience, Nichole served as the president of MSU’s student chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Outside of work, Nichole enjoys writing, dancing and makeup artistry. She came to MSU from her native Nigeria and plans to join the U.S. Army and become a medic once she graduates in May.