The First Internship: Testing the Waters

“Top 10 Intern Mistakes.” This is the title of the first article I came across when researching advice for summer interns. At first, I thought I would just write a blog post similar to it, listing the best ways to impress your boss and coworkers and build your resume. But, after reading article after article that said ALL the things that interns usually do wrong, and how they really OUGHT to act during their first real job experience, I started to get a little defensive; and I began to disagree with whoever created such belittling and negative lists.

I have a few problems with articles like this one. First, it’s just a list of what interns should not do. Basically, this tells you all the things that bosses hate and that many newly employed college kids tend to mess up. As I read through “Top 10 Intern Mistakes,” I turned to the other intern in our office and said, “I’m pretty sure I do all of these things.” Obviously, I didn’t feel great about this at first. In my eyes, I have been doing a pretty good job so far in my internship — at least I’ve been trying my best. But as I thought a little more about these so-called “mistakes” that I was failing to avoid, I began to get a different idea.

The idea is this: Internships are primarily a time for learning. They are a time for learning not only about the field you are interested in, but also about yourself. In my experience, learning is best done in a comfortable environment where you feel free to fail but also have a great desire to succeed. Now, how am I supposed to learn from this internship if I’m just afraid of messing up or doing something that could land me on a “typical intern mistakes” list? Well, it would be hard.

So, I’m not going to give you a list of what you CAN’T do because it would ultimately contradict the purpose of your internship. Rather, I want to share a little bit about the knowledge I have gained thus far at Obsidian and my take on the importance of internships.

Since I am just about to enter my sophomore year at The University of Texas and have only taken two communications-related classes, I don’t have a whole lot of PR experience under my belt. However, this internship has not only let me apply the small amount of knowledge I gained from last year, but it has also helped me to gain firsthand experiences which are already proving to be infinitely more valuable than anything taught in a classroom.

People always say that you don’t know if you like something until you try it, and this is certainly true with a job. A career is something you have for the rest of your life, and to me, it needs to line up with who you truly are and what you most love doing. Some people have known what they wanted to do since they were in kindergarten. Others, like me, still aren’t entirely sure. That’s why internships are so important. The only way to figure out if a job lines up with your interests, skills and personality is to give it a try. Note: While tasks you complete as an intern will not be exactly what you do later on in your career, you will certainly have the opportunity to watch, observe and ask questions of others in the workplace who are doing what you could be for the rest of your working life.

So, get out there and see what you love doing (and what you don’t)!