by Four-Time Former #JournoIntern
– Robin Spielberger
I know you all are wondering why I, Robin Spielberger, member of the Fall 2014 #JournoIntern class and current University of Memphis Graduate student, feel qualified to share copious amounts of advice with you about how to not be “that Intern.” So let me give you a little bit of insight into my background.
It is true, I am graduating this December with my Master’s in Political Public Relations and worked part-time for the Tennessee Firearms Association over the summer under the self-inflicted title of #intern. However, this isn’t my first time entering the job market or even holding an advanced titled position.
I returned to graduate school after 10 years of working my way “up the ladder” and holding positions such as Assistant Executive Director, Director of Special Events and Public Relations, Co-General Manager, Director of Marketing and Communications, Assistant Director of the Hank Aaron Celebrity Sports Weekend, Assistant Director of Production, Campaign Manager, 2012 TN and MS Field Representative, and Youth Leadership Director.
Early in my professional career and before ever obtaining my undergraduate degree in Journalism with an emphasis in Advertising from the University of Memphis, I was lucky enough to have received paid internships at Thompson & Co. Ad Agency (acquired by CS2 Advertising in 2011 after Michael Thompson Sr. retired – read news story here), Southern Stores, Inc. (was once one of the largest Blockbuster Video franchise groups), and the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill – Memphis.
Currently, I am a consultant for several liberty organizations and am working full-time for the Tennessee Firearms Association, with a few interns of my own.
That being said, let me potentially save you #JournoInterns from making some of the damaging mistakes that i’ve seen over the years and hopefully, provide a little advice for success along the way. You ready? Here we go.
Part I of IV
20. Don’t Be Cocky
You’re not too good for administrative tasks and you’re there to learn about many aspects of the company or organization. I’ve spoken to many managers who say that their interns seem too proud to do what is asked of them.
The students who seem to think they are too good to do menial type work don’t get ahead. Sure, there are CEOs who don’t have a clue how to use Excel or how to Tweet but they probably started out building their career before there was such a thing as Microsoft Word or Twitter.
Know that some tasks may be a test and even if your first task doesn’t seem to be worthy of your talent or potential, jump right in and show enthusiasm.
Many times a task will build upon a previous one, so if you do a mediocre job on the simple things, then there is no way your boss will help you step up to the big projects. You’ll have to walk a bit before they let you run.
Also, remember, that some tasks just need to be taken care of and as troubling as it may be to hear, your manager’s time is probably better spent doing something else and your time is less expensive to the client.
No, you didn’t go to college in order to learn to make coffee or get a discount at Starbucks, but it’s a fact of office life, which often falls to the newbie.
Get over it. Do you know the ridiculous number of “Brownie” points you might get for actually offering to do this? It’s seen as a beacon of willingness and nobody wants to employ someone who thinks they’re too good to roll up their sleeves and take care of the humdrum tasks. Although by the same token, I think employers are beholden to mix up an intern’s tasks and provide some real world job experience.
Show your employer that you not only know traditional office procedures but that you are up to date on innovative techniques that make you a valuable addition to the team. More and more organizations are moving away from paper and those interns who show their knowledge of digital solutions will gain the advantage.
19. Listen, Listen, Listen & then….Listen Some More
Be all ears. Listen to every word that is being spoken to you and around you. People who are assigning jobs to you are busy themselves and they don’t want to waste their time by repeating what they are saying because you are not paying attention.
If you miss something important they told you, you are surely going to screw up the work that you were given. The person who assigned you the work will hate you and this may be your direct supervisor, their supervisor, an administrative assistant or the CEO. Make sure you are alert and listening – carefully.
18. Don’t Be a Know it All
Even if you think your boss and colleagues are in the wrong, it’s important to respect that they’ve been doing the job a lot longer and may know things you don’t. This doesn’t mean that they’re incapable of being wrong, but if you believe that to be the case, by all means, handle it diplomatically.
This also means that if any of your employers misuse millennial generation terminology such as saying “twitter that message” instead of “tweet that message”, do NOT correct them on the spot or maybe not at all.
They know what they are talking about as they used the proper context for the statement. They simply used incorrect lingo. You know what they meant and they know what they said. Follow their instructions and “twitter the message” without further adieu. Help them to learn the lingo by simply using the correct terminology when speaking about Twitter in the future.
Remember, your facial expressions are just that….expressive. So if you roll your eyes, they will know you that you did and please, don’t make the “annoyed face” on the “outside”.
17. Show Up
Go to work every day and be on time, barring an extreme emergency or illness. If you have a cold, take some DayQuil and check Pinterest for a “professional in a pinch” hairstyle so that you can get out the door and on your way to the office. You won’t like it and you may feel like you’ve been hit by a Mack truck all day long but I promise you this – you will live AND your boss will be impressed by your dedication.
Don’t call in sick when you have a hangover because you made the choice to go out and party with your friends last night but better yet – don’t go out and party with your friends and risk putting yourself in the situation where you must make the decision.
You have your entire life to go out and party all night. I know it seems as if THAT band will never be in town again or your best friend’s broken heart is the most important thing ever BUT trust me – it isn’t. I’ve been there. I remember thinking that I was going to miss out on everything. Looking back, I honestly wish that I had paid a bit more attention to gaining the respect of co-workers and employers than whatever the name of that band was that played on that particular Wednesday night or whatever that name of that guy was who broke my friend’s heart.
Even as I write this, I know that this one is something that each person must learn for themselves. Some people have to learn the hard way and I was one of them.
Just remember this – you may be able to get away with calling in “sick” once or possibly even twice but your employer notices this behavior and everyone notices if you come into the office looking like a hot mess.
Another no-no is requesting too much time off during your internship period. Every company has its own policy — but the experts say interns should refrain from taking too much time off for vacations, especially if the internship is only eight weeks long (or less). This gives the appearance to your employer that you aren’t serious about your future at this point in your life.
16. Keep it to Yourself – Online and Off
Social media is important and certainly used in everyday life. Using Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn or other resources like Tumblr, WordPress, or even SnapChat will help you build your online presence, but it can hurt you in the real world. What you put online will be exposed to everyone, so be sure to ask yourself if it would be a good idea to put online.
Keep your shenanigans and comments off the internet and for the love of kittens – do not post any potentially questionable pictures. You may not find your statement, comment, or pictures questionable but ask yourself this: would my mom find it questionable? how about my grandma or my father? If the answer could be yes in the slightest – DON’T POST IT! This also goes for making sure that the comments that your friends make are appropriate as well. We are no better than the company we keep.
Don’t spam coworkers’ emails. Don’t post inappropriate things on your social media profiles. Don’t make comments that contain cuss words or sexual innuendoes. Don’t post #buffies, #nudies, #half-nudies, or #drunkies. Need I really say more?
Don’t trash talk anyone at work and don’t entertain the idea of kissing up to someone,
You might think that by being extra sticky sweet, you will earn some brownie points. The truth is – you won’t. It makes you appear as if you have something to hide, that you aren’t serious, or that you’re a walking doormat.
At the same time, don’t let the idea of being best pals with your co-workers or employers take over. You don’t need to be a neurotically shy intern, but you don’t need to treat your boss like your best friend, either.
Be polite and friendly but remember that he/she is your boss. There is a very thin line that you must walk – learn to distinguish where it is and how to follow the right path. Understand where the boundaries are, and remember to never say anything that you wouldn’t repeated a thousand times over or repeated to the person about which you were speaking.
Be the person who smiles, says hello, and introduces him/herself to everybody. Don’t be the person who causes their lunch to explode in the microwave and doesn’t clean it up. Usually, you make your reputation on first impressions, even if you’re only at the internship for a short period of time.
So make sure that everyone’s associations with you are positive because it truly makes a huge difference. Make sure that you are known as a good person to work with and around.
15. Don’t Play Politics
Don’t get sucked into office politics. Just don’t. You won’t do yourself any favors (or enhance your employability) by instantly becoming part of the problem.
Make sure you’re miles away before you go off about your office nemesis. Better yet, just avoid going off about anyone and take up yoga or something to boil off some steam.
I’ll keep this short and sweet by just echoing what you’ve heard a thousand times: if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it at all.
Make ALL the Friends:
Whether you’re spending one month or three working with this organization, it’s important to not only network professionally, but also to network personally and socially! Get to know everyone from the custodial team to the CEO, if you can without making it awkward. No matter what type of setting you’re working in, everyone loves a happy, enthusiastic, intern. If they like you as a person, they’re more likely to ask you back or recommend you after your internship is over!
By being nice to everyone in the organization, it shows people who you are inside and what type of person you are. Plus, the administrative assistants and the “secretaries” can be the most beneficial relationship you make during your internship. These people who are often overlooked sometimes have the most control over your experience. Trust me! Be nice and don’t be a snob.
That’s all for this month’s edition.
Stay tuned for #14 through #10.
Come back next month to learn 5 ways to NOT be #ThatIntern.