In honor of Intern Maggie and her excitement to expand her skills and be a productive member of our staff, here are the five greatest lessons I learned as an intern:
- Always give more than people expect. One supervisor was over the moon when she found out I know my way around Adobe Creative Suite and loved that I had experience with library catalogs and could organize all of her books. I used to work in a billing department? I have no fear about talking to total strangers on the street? I'd coordinated an office move before? I could write a letter-to-the-editor? It's good when people have high expectations of you, but it's even better when you have high expectations of yourself.
- Learn to love whatever you're doing. I've been asked to do some pretty boring tasks as an intern—including filing an entire year's worth of papers and reading 25 newspapers a day to compile clippings. You might be socked to learn I enjoyed both of these tasks because they allowed me to read and learn and know what was going on in the world. Finding something to love in the menial means you can feel fulfilled no matter what you have to do.
- Love where you are. I've been an intern in Springfield, Illinois, and Rexburg, Idaho, both Podunk towns to this city girl. But after years away, I can still tell you my favorite picnic spots, the best places to eat lunch and 101 fun things to do without having to step foot in a club, museum or sports arena. Every town, neighborhood, building has something unique to offer.
- Write your own syllabus. The summer I interned in DC, a friend and I created a for-credit class, which meant we could spend one day a week doing whatever we wanted. We explored the alphabet soup of DC, listened to House debates and interviewed government officials. Not many classes can offer as diverse an education as an internship can.
- Keep in touch. I love seeing what my fellow former-interns are up to, and it always makes me happy when someone I used to work with has a new success. Business contacts are good, but friends are even better.