April 09, 2012

How not to screw up your internship by Elisa Aquino


  • Before anything else, if money is your main goal for an internship, then you are immediately screwed. 
It’s not a terrible thing to want to earn money, true, but a lot of internships/on-the-job training don’t offer money, believe me. It sure is great to have extrinsic motivation to be able to finish a task, because you know you’re getting paid, but you (we) are young and are still learning. I believe the perfect thing to motivate you is to keep in mind that you are learning so much about the real world, meeting a lot of people and experiencing many things you usually don’t, if not for your internship. Also, if you keep the “money factor” a key player and a major element in your internship, it will allow you to act and make decisions only because of it. If you don’t get paid, you will be dreading the internship from the very start. You are young and learning. There will be money soon enough. And it will come too, because of your internship experience, don’t worry.
  • Be prepared to be very exhausted.
You are at the bottom of the pyramid. Keep that in mind. This means that you will be doing very many things, even if it is in your job description or not, that will require you to do a lot of work. If you work for a company, you will probably have more than one boss and even if you do have one, other people on the top of the pyramid wil be asking you to do things for them.
  • It will bring out both your best and worst traits.
I remember when I was still working as an intern for the magazine, I would go home at 10 in the evening and I would be terribly exhausted from all the work load. I would still  do my homework and if anybody ever tried to make me do something or interrupted me, I would immediately snap at them. I was so cranky and impatient because I was so tired and I just wanted to sleep but I could not. I would also skip many meals because we were always on the road or I would be in different places helping out with pull-outs, returns and shoots which obviously was very unhealthy. On the other hand, I was very, very polite and helpful with my bosses and colleagues. I was also unusually very hard-working, it scared me. What I’m saying is, this sudden change of “lifestyle” will affect your behavior. I’m not kidding.
  • It will be difficult to balance an internship with…other things.
If you plan on balancing an internship with academics, good luck with that. I am telling you, it won’t be easy. Maybe we are all programmed differently and some can do better than me but know that an internship will take a lot of your time. Your internship will also not end after you get out of the office because you will still be doing work-related things after.
Also, there was a point in time wherein I found work so much more appealing than school and I just wanted to work forever so my mindset actually had a very huge impact on my projects and exams. There were also very many times wherein I passed my design projects just for the sake of passing them, never really doing my best, because I didn’t have time to practice and do more work. That was my fault since I knew that I would be balancing these two things together, albeit doing a very bad job at it. I had (and still am having) a very hard time keeping up with my course mates because I focused too much on work and my internships. 
  • It’s okay to make mistakes. 
I remember hearing this from one of my professors when he found out that I got an internship. I was very intimidated by the people in the office and was so scared that I would make mistakes but when he said this, I felt a million times better. I’m not saying keep making mistakes but I’m saying you can, because you’re still learning. It’s okay to screw up once in awhile because you learn what you’re supposed to really work on.
  • Don’t wait. Initiate.
I remember screwing up (big time) three times during my magazine internship. I won’t go into detail because it’s too complicated but one of my bosses talked to me and told me one of the greatest things I’ll never forget, “People won’t always spoonfeed you.” When you grow up, not everyone’s going to keep on telling you what to do, especially in this kind of environment.
Don’t wait for things to be asked for you to be done. If you want a pat on the back, look for things that can be done and are just screaming out for someone to finish it, and do it. Your bosses are going to love your enthusiasm, responsibility and your initiative. Trust me.
  • Queries are always welcome. Listen. Pay attention.
I screwed up one time. I had to return some clothes to a store in Makati and when I went there, turns out, my other boss wanted for me to return some other things in the same store so I wasted her time, gave her a pretty bad headache and I felt terrible because I hate disappointing people. After that, I would have a notebook and pen with me everywhere I go instead of just jotting down drafts on my phone. I would also ask when I was not sure. It’s better to ask and disturb your boss than actually disappoint her for not making sure that this particular thing had to be done. I never screwed up after that. 
  • Don’t be afraid to suggest, give your opinion on something or show them your strengths and talents.
Sure, you are (just) an intern but remember that they chose you for a reason. I remember talking to one of my office mates and she told me she prefers having interns who “spice” things up and not just do what they’re told. Sure, I was incredibly intimidated by my bosses and other colleagues but then, I got over my fear and talked to them. They found out I had a blog, did photography and wrote. They read and looked at my material and if it was not for that, I would have possibly never been published and I would not be a contributor. Also, the more that they know your strengths, the greater possibility that you impress them.
  • Don’t kill yourself trying to please everyone. It’s okay to take a break once in awhile. 
I had such a terrible birthday last year because I was such a goody-goody that I decided to work instead of just rest and have a fun time with my family and friends. It’s okay to take a break once in awhile because if you become a selfless martyr, trying to please everyone, you’re going to actually hate your job. Also, have fun. You’re young.
  • Dress appropriately and comfortably.
You are not going to a party. You are not going to school. You are also not going to run for president. Dress appropriately and dress comfortably. If you want to die, wear heels.
  • It’s okay to “friend” your colleagues on Facebook but..
know that they will not like seeing your party photos, your dramas in life and your continuous swearing. So, be cautious about that.
  • It’s not personal. 
If your bosses snap at you or they get angered, frustrated or they give you a short sermon, it’s not personal. They are just busy and probably want to get their work finished. 
  • No matter what happens and no matter how tired you become, remember to be #grateful.
Even if you want to quit because it can really get hard, remember why you’re doing it in the first place: to learn. And they are going to teach you many lessons in the same way that you are going to teach yourself lessons. Be grateful. Be patient. It will be worth it in the end. This I promise you.
I hope you find this useful! And, good luck. Go kick some working a**!

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