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Welcome to the summer semester. Internship season is upon us, and unlike the fall or spring, this is the semester where everyone is home from school, vying for internships. This means one of two things about your company’s newest crop of unpaid laborers (namely you)–you’re either the best of the best or you know somebody. There’s no shame in that, because everybody gets into business by knowing somebody. It’s a fact of life.
But who cares about how you got to your company? The fact of the matter remains that you’re there. This is your three month long audition, and you need to wow the pants off of these people. Statistically speaking, and from personal experience, you’ll intern with a group of anywhere from 12 to 25 people. Maybe two of you will get a full-time staff position at your company come the end of the internship, and that’s if you’re lucky. It baffles me how many people get this one in a million shot and just do not make the most of it. This is your future we’re talking about, kids. Everyone cares about that, right? Well, unless you’re young Professor X yelling at old Professor X about not wanting your future.
Here’s how to not be a crappy intern:
1. Be Early
A wise man once told me, “Early is on time, on time is late, and if you’re late, you’re fucked.” My dad said it in a much harsher way than that when he dropped me off for preschool, but you get the idea. I always tried to get to work before most of the people I worked for did. That way, I could get myself situated, lazily drink a cup of coffee, and get ready for the day before getting hit with the barrage of tasks I’d be asked to handle.
Don’t gauge when you should arrive based on when other employees roll into the office. They’re paid employees and have the benefit of getting there when they please, within reason. You do not have that same luxury. If you’re at the office early, the people who think they get there early will be impressed. They’ll call you things like “go-getter,” “early bird,” and “eager beaver,” and only one of those can be potentially misconstrued for a sexual advance, which is a plus. I bet you that your supervisors will be 100 times more likely to ask you to do an important task than the kid who rolls in at 10 a.m. with a dazed look on his face.
2. Be Friendly…
Getting to know the employees is a pretty essential and basic part of being an intern. These are the people who will go to bat for you when a job at the company opens up, long after you’ve gone back to school or graduated and hit the unemployment line. It’s not like the intern coordinator has a photographic memory of every intern who’s passed through the halls of your office. Let’s say there are 15 kids per semester; if you interned a year ago, there have been 45 kids who have come through since you. No matter how great you are, if you don’t keep in touch with people and be friendly, they’ll forget you.
One of the best things you can do for yourself, other than being a hard worker, is to be friendly to the people you’re supporting. Talk to them. Get to know them. Not just the bosses, either–get to know the assistants and other junior-level people. These are the people you definitely need to keep on your side, because they’re your contemporaries and not too long ago, they were probably in the exact same position as you. They’re not much older than you and they probably have some good advice. You should try not to piss them off.
3. …But Not Too Friendly
Getting invited out with staffers is a common occurrence if you’re 21 or older, and it’s a pretty damn cool privilege. You get to interact with these people outside the office and try to build personal relationships with these people beyond the typical employee-intern dynamic. Also, maybe they’ll feel sorry for you since you don’t make money and they’ll buy you drinks. That’s a pretty cool perk.
This isn’t like going out to the bar with your college friends, though. You cannot get tanked and make a drunken ass of yourself, because in college, all you’re doing is risking embarrassing Facebook pictures and waking up with a schlong drawn on your face. Here, you’re ruining your chances at possible employment. If you get wasted and piss yourself at the Christmas party, to them you will always be, “Hey, remember the intern who pissed himself at the Christmas party?” If you’re seen leaving the bar with two guys, you will always be, “The intern who screwed those two douchebags in accounting.” It’s sad, but it’s true. There’s making a name for yourself, and making a name for yourself.
4. Be Positive
Those of us who’ve interned at a company know that intern tasks can be, well, to put it bluntly, pretty damn menial. Photocopies. Running errands. Buying lunch. Coffee runs. If your bosses can think of it, you’ll do it. Some might call it “busy work.” Others might say it’s beneath them.
Well, let me tell you something that some people have never heard in their lives, but everyone should hear: NOTHING IS BENEATH YOU. YOU ARE NOT SPECIAL.
The only people who can even make the claim that they’re above menial intern labor are the people who have done it before. Everybody goes through it, and everybody has to pay his or her dues before climbing the ladder to the top. If you think you’re better than that, you’re not in the right business. You shouldn’t be in any business, frankly. Entitlement is probably the worst quality a person can have.
But it’s not an entitled person’s fault–it’s hereditary. Their parents argued their way through school for them every time they got a bad grade, right? “My Jared is very special.” Nope. Maybe your kid’s just dumb, or should have studied instead of blowing Xanax rails off the bathroom urinals between third and fourth period.
Here’s the best advice I can give to anyone with an internship: if you work hard, have a good attitude, and do every task you’re assigned with a smile on your face, you will not only succeed at this internship, you’ll succeed at life.
5. Never Say No
Fun fact: I worked as a lifeguard at a hotel throughout high school and during college breaks. Working at a hotel, you’re expected to deliver a certain level of service to the hotel guests. It took me a long time to learn this, but this one mantra was beaten into my skull. It stayed with me through my hotel experience and the rest of my life: “Never say no; find a creative way to say yes.”
I’m sure there’s some cheesy saying about “nothing is impossible,” or you can watch Kevin Garnett shout “anything is possible” from the 2008 NBA finals over and over again, but it’s kind of true. Your bosses may ask you to do some difficult things, but they’ll never ask you to do a task that’s just physically not possible to complete.
Instead of being negative and having your first reaction to a difficult task be “no,” always accept the difficult assignments and take on as many challenges as you can muster throughout your internship. These will be the things people remember, and these are the things you can use in job interviews when they ask you if you’ve ever taken on a difficult challenge or faced adversity. That’s the bullshit question, here’s your bullshit answer.
6. Ask Questions And Make The Most Of It
Take a look at yourself. You’re a young, dumb college student with a bright future ahead of you, God willing. You’re at a company that you think you might want to work for in a field you believe you want to be in someday. Why not take this opportunity to ask the people you’re working for questions about themselves?
Everyone loves talking about him or herself. It’s a fact. Just look at me–I’ve talked about myself for half of this article.
Another fact: the people at your company probably have a similar background to you, and they probably started out in the same way. I’m sure they all had someone talk to them back when they were first starting out, so they will want to pay it forward. They had a mentor once. They might want to be your mentor, too. Nobody’s going to be a dick and make fun of you for asking questions. If you don’t, they might construe it as rudeness. That’s no fun. Again, it’s all about personal relationships with these people.
And honestly, have fun with it, guys. Internships, while a ton of work, can be fun. You meet some amazing people–not just the people you work for, but you can make lifelong connections and friendships with the people you intern with. Hell, you might end up dating someone in your intern class, like I did. I’m not complaining. Plus, you get the added bonus of getting to go back to college when it’s all over. These people envy you, slightly.
Good luck out there, Summer 2014 interns. The world is your oyster, or some corny shit like that.
If you think you’ve got what it takes to be a not shitty intern for PGP, we’re hiring summer interns. Check it out HERE.