Monday, 24 June 2013

How to Get the Most Swagger Out of Your Internship

Summertime is beautiful; the sweet air, the sun glorifying your every step, the weekends with friends you’ll never forget (unintentional rhyme, but I’m keeping it).

But if you’re an upper-class college student exhausting the last bit of ambition you can muster up, you’re probably working as an intern. Although they feel tedious, internships can be one of the most influential steps a budding worker can take. I should know, I’m in one.

Over the course of my internship here at Swagger Media, I can positively say that I’m sad it is so short-term (6 weeks). But while I’m here, I should make the most of it. But how is an intern supposed to exploit all the potential of a short-term internship?  If you’re anything like me (shy, inexperienced, etc.), it’s not easy. But here are some things that can help.

Be confident.

OK, can I be more vague? Allow me to explain. It’s all right to be incredibly under-qualified as an intern. I’m pretty sure that’s in an intern’s DNA.  I have been assigned to compile ad traffic and create graphs showing the relationship between ads and website visits, and it’s really a whole new experience for me. The point is, you’re not supposed to know the ins and outs of a company’s business model. You can’t possibly understand what it means to vertically integrate (keep all parts of the production/distribution process in-house) or establish a large network effect (the value of a product increases as more people use it).  Although I just shamelessly boasted my economic knowledge, I still don’t know anything about how companies are actually run. And you know what the best part of the situation is?


You’re there to learn, so be confident in knowing that now is the time to make mistakes and grow in your knowledge. The word intern literally means, “set within prescribed limits” or “restricted.” I’m purely bragging at this point (it comes with the confidence), but know that the world won’t end if you don’t know everything about everything already.

Ask questions.

Once you get enough confidence, ask as many questions as you can. Employers love to talk about how much they know. They like the idea of having a protégé, regardless if you fit the bill or not. At Swagger, my employers know a lot, and just overhearing their conversations helps me understand how things get done in a work environment. But if something isn’t clear, it won’t hurt to pick your employer’s brain. Once again, now is the time to fill your head with all of the stuff that will be useful in the future.

Now, Now, Now!

Keep an open mind to all the tasks you do.

Is it not obvious I’m making this up as I go? But seriously, opportunity is waiting behind every odd job, every small task that you’ve been assigned. It’s like an unfed puppy waiting to be loved. Clearly I need to work on my similes. But rhetorical devices aside, find the hidden (sometimes very hidden) values within your daily duties.  Since I have been throwing around ad traffic, I’ve learned even more about Excel. I’ve also learned how to manage my time more wisely when other tasks arise.

If you look for character-building qualities within the job, you’ll find them. And it’ll only help you in the future. This type of positive mindset will make everything a learning experience. Be like a sponge and absorb every trick of the trade you can. You see? This task has helped me improve my similes.

Mastering the Simile.
Be a human.

I’m not talking about evolution. I’m talking about being an enthusiastic social being within the work environment. This is perhaps the most important thing to consider: people want to be around other people. That is, if you get you’re work done but don’t interact with anybody else, you aren’t learning as much about a firm as you can. I try to be as friendly as I can in the office (which to normal people is probably as friendly as a rabid dog), and this helps everyone’s days go by so much smoother.

People run firms; therefore, the workplace is a social setting. Ask about people’s days, ask if anybody needs help with anything, and establish relationships that could be mutually beneficial for both parties. If they wanted a drone, they would’ve hired one. OK, maybe not for another hundred years, but you get the point.

As long as you do your job and are enthusiastic about it, perfection isn’t necessary. Just make sure you’re willing to learn, to seize opportunities, and to become an excellent future employee  (or employer, if you’re lucky). 

 What do you think is the key to a successful internship? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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