Internship Fails

internship failsSo it’s finally summer, and after all the beach towels and sunscreen bottles are put away from Memorial Day weekend at the shore, it’s time to start your internship. And you’re really excited, right?

OK, so maybe you’re a little nervous. Being the new kid is scary. You’ve got no idea what these people are going to expect of you; you’ve really only got two professional looking outfits. So while you’re all out there stressing about making a good impression in your first few weeks, it’s good to be reminded that you’re not alone. None of us know what we’re doing.

In my first days on the job, I encountered more than a few internship fails. Revel in my failures so you can feel a little better about that hole in your sweater you hope no one sees, getting lost on your commute or accidentally hanging up during your first phone call. (It might just be funny to laugh at me — that works too.)

1. Anybody there?

So it’s the very first day and I walk in the door, but no one is at the front desk. What do I do?

a) Wait for the secretary — I’m sure she’ll be right back.

or

b) Take action: go find someone and introduce myself as the new intern.

Sydney opts for none of the above and walks around aimlessly for several minutes before someone asks her who she is … good choice.

2. Office Antics

So I’m finally inside and I’ve met the intern coordinator. She and her coworker are joking around and ask me which one I think is older. I’m trapped, I’ve got to answer, but what do I say? I tried laughing it off as a joke, but they kept staring at me. “You look about equal?” That’s a safe answer. But they keep pushing, “How old do we look?” Oh, all adults look the same age to me! “Thirty-two.” That’s young but realistic, right? They just laugh at me. I’m still not sure I had the right answer …

3. Snicky Snacks

There are plenty of pretzels and animal crackers at the coffee station, and I was told to help myself. I’m starving and really want some, but do I risk everyone watching me take like seven handfuls and bring them all back to my cubicle? I waited until no one was there, dashed over, poured myself an entire cupful and ran back. Judge me. I dare you.

4. Meeting the Boss

So now that I’ve got all these animal crackers, my boss pops in to say hello. My mouth is completely full with the crackers, but I have to talk to him. Chew? No, too obvious. Swallow? Impossible. Instead I shove all the food to one side and proceed to have a conversation with my boss. Smile, I think to myself, oh wait not too much he’ll see the food in your mouth. Every time he looks away I chew as slowly and quietly as I can. Maybe he didn’t notice?

5. Lunch Break

I get an hour for lunch, success! I picked Chipotle, which seemed like a good choice to me. Unfortunately, I got caught in a rainstorm on the way back and, of course, my car was parked nowhere close to the restaurant. So now I’m soaking wet and have to go back in to work … what am I supposed to do? My hair will dry, and, with the black pants I’m wearing, you can barely tell they’re soaked — same goes for the blazer. But what won’t dry is my shear pink top which is now two different colors, and see through on the top — lovely. Luckily, I had a hair brush (because, for some reason, I thought that was more essential to bring than an umbrella) but I had no idea what to do about the shirt. My decision? I went into the bathroom before anyone could see me and used the hand dryer to blow dry my shirt. I literally stuck my chest under the hand dryer … it was possibly a new low.

6. Going Home

So you think that would be enough fails for one day right? Wrong. I have one more. As I walk out to the parking lot I realize I have no idea where I parked. That’s easy, just use the button on the keys and the car will flash and beep. Plot twist — my keys don’t have one of those. So I searched for my car for at least ten minutes in the drizzle.

So while you’re obsessing about being perfect on your first day, just remember me, soaking wet, animals crackers in my mouth and wandering around without a clue. I also may have written this at my cubicle while I was supposed to be working. Whoops! So have a good summer, and remember, it’s hard to fail as badly as me.

InternTips: A Balancing Act

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Some of you luckier ones out there might still be in that “cool summer job” phase this time around. You know what I mean: lifeguarding, babysitting, camp counseling, etc. — basically anything that’s not supposed to be preparing you for your future career path.

Up until last summer, I was in that boat myself with a cushy job at the local recreation department on the Jersey Shore (no, not that one) that involved a lot of playing sports with little kids and otherwise getting paid to sit around and do nothing. Now I’m taking a class while working a full-time unpaid internship. Go figure.

But that’s not at all to say that I’m looking at Summer 2013 as a wash. If you’re looking to sort out how to handle your commitments this summer while still having a good time, you’ve come to the right place. 4E is here with InternTips. A handy reoccurring post that will help you out with intern life.

Yes, you may no longer have the luxury of that beautifully cushy job where you got paid to tan or watch TV, but that doesn’t mean that it’s time to flip the switch and start working yourself to death. Even legitimate professionals take the summer easier than the rest of the year — people are noticeably less motivated to get work done in their depressing cubicle when it’s hot and sunny outside.

And newsflash: If you are going to be in D.C., it’s going to be extra hot and sunny for you. No one wants you to flood your internship office with your sweat, especially considering the fact that, in all likelihood, YOU’RE NOT EVEN GETTING PAID. So chill out.

That said, let’s not go crazy with the lazy. There’s certainly something to be said for getting a leg up, so constant slacking off just isn’t going to cut it once you’ve gotten to my unfortunate rising junior phase.

Internships are annoying and borderline enslavement, yes, but they also represent your only real chance to secure recommendations to show to future employers. It’s easy from a shortsighted perspective to see why the thought of getting fired from an unpaid internship might actually be kind of nice — you’d make the same amount partying or sitting playing Xbox as you would at that office at McPherson Square, after all.

You’re going to be asked what you did each summer, and you’ll be expected to provide concrete details. Make sure you’ve earned something tangible to say.

Perhaps you’re able to get by at your job by working only when the higher-ups are around, and you trick them into thinking you’re doing stuff. If so, then honestly, congrats, because you’ve managed to beat the system. But for the rest of us, presumably working with/for moderately intelligent people, then you’re going to have to put in the time and put in the effort. It might only be photocopying — which seems to be a great deal of what interns and even lower-level employees are doing nowadays — but it still counts. And it’s really not that difficult. Buck up, and do some work!

Okay, so at this point I’m not sure I can make my ultimate message here any more obvious. Summers can be big in terms of showcasing your legitimate, employable talents: “All right, you’re an A/B/C student. Now let’s see what you can actually do.

No one in our society anymore seems to be allowed to graduate without at least one internship, which means that those without them aren’t nearly as competitive. Taking classes to boost school-year grades or open up more time during the year (maybe for another internship) can make sense for some people too.

But don’t kill yourself over all of it.

In fact, if you’re the type of kid who feels the need to sacrifice all fun things just to work, then you’re likely also the type of kid who badly needs time off to relax and recharge.

When you get home from your internship or you finish up the day’s classes, allot some “me time” for yourself. Maybe that means throwing your work clothes on the floor, kicking your feet up to watch some TV or just getting away completely and enjoying the weather outside.

At the same time, don’t let yourself do nothing, either. You know the old adage: “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” And it will also make you jobless, unmarketable and lazy.

Could a summer of 24/7 work help you toward your goal of running the world one day? Sure. But you can’t sacrifice on treatin’ yourself at least every once in a while. You go to Georgetown; you’ve earned it.

Stay strong out there, Hoyas. And remember: balance.

Summer InternTips: Avoiding Distractions

Now is the time in your summer where you are getting tired of the daily grind. You’re tired of waking up early, tired of daily tasks at work and tired of your officemates’ weird mannerisms. When you are tired, you’re more likely to start up bad habits at work — nodding off in the middle of the day, not listening to instructions, and (worst of all) random distractions.

Distractions at work start off harmless. You discover an interesting website or a fun way to pass the time on office computers. At first, distractions are often office related — reading about your industry but not actually doing your assignment, chatting with coworkers, et cetera — but it often grows to more distractions, like Facebook, Buzzfeed or Twitter. That’s when you get in trouble.

If you find yourself constantly at the mercy of random distractions, and you discover you’re spending most of your time at work looking for ways to avoid work than actually doing it, you should probably follow these tips:

1. Look for an assignment change. Sometimes, a dumb project is the reason for your boredom at work. See if you can find a project that interests you more. After you do that for a while, switch back to the project that made you bored. Maybe you’ll be rejuvenated.

2. Take a five-minute break every hour. This is the best advice I have. Ideally, this time should be spent away from your desk, maybe on a trip to the water cooler or a walk around the office. Refill your waterbottle. Go to the bathroom. Chat with a friend down the hall. Some time away from the desk is sometimes all you need to get back on track.

3. Be cognizant of your posture. Slouching, reaching, craning your neck can make you tired and harm productivity.

4. Have a healthy snack. Avoid the break room doughnuts and instead bring along an apple, some carrots, or some crackers with goat cheese. Unhealthy, sugary or greasy snacks usually don’t help your brain, especially if you’re already tired. Along those same lines, coffee won’t necessarily help your productivity or make you more alert, so try to drink juice or water instead.

5. Have fun with work. If you see work as a chore, you won’t do it. If you like doing it, you will do it. A simple attitude change might be all you need to fix your productivity.

6. Set little goals for yourself. It can sometimes help to set a goal to achieve for, especially if you are only working on a long-term project. Plus, it looks good to bosses.

Photo credit: blackenterprise.com

Summer InternTips: Gaining Respect

You’ve spent a couple of weeks at your internship now, and now that you’ve avoided most of the first week pitfalls, you’re ready to get more exciting assignments and take full advantage of your internship experience. Last week, we here at 4E gave you some tips to make your first week awesome. Now, we’ll give you the tips you need to gain respect at the workplace.

1. Volunteer for things. Most internships are composed of primarily tasks fulltime staff members don’t want to or don’t have time ro perform themselves. So, they’ll often ask for assistance on less exciting or less important projects that still need to be done. Especially if you’re in an office with other interns or if you have extra time on your hands, volunteering for extra projects is the best way to get noticed.

2. Don’t be shy. One of the best ways to get to know your coworkers is by meeting them in the hallways, in the break room, at lunch or when you walk by their office. Instead of customarily nodding or waving at them, introduce yourself politely. A lot of interns fall into the pitfall of being “the intern” that no one knows, so get people to know your name as opposed to your title.

3. Don’t slack off. If you have a project, get straight to work. If you don’t have a project, ask for one quickly. Most interns aren’t well known in their offices because they don’t do a lot of work. They sit around dillydallying on Facebook, ESPN, Twitter or Pinterest as opposed to asking for other work. If you really don’t have anything to do, read the news or other relevant materials to your internship (like company reports, etc.).

4. Know your work as well as everyone else does. The hardest part about interning somewhere for one summer is familiarizing yourself with your employer and your employer’s work. Still, you work there, and you should try to get to know the issues as well as everyone else in your office. This means reading industry news websites, following similar organizations’ work and asking around the office to figure out what specific people are working on.

5. Show off (but not too much). Don’t be afraid to showcase you knowledge, your skill set and your Georgetown education. Just don’t make a big deal of it. Everyone else at the office will start to hate you if you do. But, if you can show your skills in a humble way, you’ll score major points with the office.

6. Learn names. Try to learn you coworkers’ names, and address them by name. It gives them an incentive to address you by name, as well.

7. Take notes and ask questions so that your work will be the best it can be. When you get an assignment, make sure that you know how to do it before you start. That way, you’ll turn out better work and you’ll start to earn respect in the workplace. The best way to earn respect at work is by doing something that deserves respect.

Photo credit: cybermonsters.blogspot.com

Summer InternTips: Your First Week

If you’re like me, you just finished your third day of your summer internship. You’re learning the ropes at your new job, and you’re just starting to get to know your boss, secretary and office mates. But you’re still learning the ropes. You still have to check in at the front desk as a visitor because your badge hasn’t been made yet. You’re still eating lunch alone in your office. You arrive five minutes later than you’re supposed to because you missed your bus stop. (Note: these all apply to me. It’s OK.)

Because here at 4E we know that you’re probably in the same boat, we compiled some tips for how to make your first week as productive to your internship as possible:

1. Get to know your office. Explore all of the possibilities your company, building, and neighborhood have to offer. A lot of buildings (especially on Capitol Hill) have special perks to like food courts, cafes, ice cream or fro-yo, or fancy vending machines. Some offices have green roofs for lunch breaks so you don’t have to eat in your office.

2. Learn the ropes of your work. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. This is your first week — bosses expect questions, and always prefer them to incomplete or shoddy work. Now is the time to figure out how best to finish assignments so that you can do them consistently correctly for the rest of your internship.

3. Meet your coworkers, even the ones you won’t end up working with consistently. Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to everyone. Basically, you don’t want to be the intern that no one knows the name of come July. Plus, think networking.

4. Start off on a good foot. Though you should expect to make some mistakes, be prompt, polite, and make an effort. Your bosses will expect mistakes as well, but they’ll be watching your work ethic and demeanor this week. Even if you make mistakes, making a good effort this week will help you secure more interesting and important projects later in your internship.

5. Save your money. Unpaid and paid interns alike, we all have thin wallets. So save your money by making your lunch ahead of time and bringing it to work, taking the bus ($1.50) instead of the Metro (with an upcoming price increase in July) or a cab.

6. Stay positive. Even if your week is rough (many of ours will be), the rest of the summer won’t be. Believe in yourself and your ability to learn how to do your job, meet other interns and network with your coworkers. The first week is tough for everybody. Almost certainly, next week will be better.

7. Link in with the greater D.C. intern community. D.C. in the summer is an exciting place with tons of other college students visiting us for the summer. Even though we here at Georgetown are blessed with a hefty set of connections in D.C., it is always a good idea to meet kids from other colleges at other internships. There are plenty of blogs, Twitter feeds and Facebook pages dedicated to summer interns here. Most are only relevant to those who don’t have the privilege of living in D.C. during the school year, but they’re still good resources for anyone on the Hilltop with an internship.

Image credit: Vanity Fair