After my sophomore year at Gonzaga, I took a leap of faith. I purchased a one-way ticket to San Francisco, placed an order for a futon that I would call “bed” for the next eight weeks and packed my bags. I would be spending my summer in the Golden Gate City interning for Wells Fargo in their Enterprise Social Media Department. I am a Public Relations major with a minor in English and Promotion. Interning for a company as large as Wells Fargo was a daunting thought. However, working for a large corporation provided great training and experience.
Based on my time there, here are eight keys to a successful internship:
- Be a good listener: It is important to be a good listener. You will learn by listening. Go to every meeting possible. Even if you have to skip lunch, the time you are able to spend with working professionals in the field or industry that you are interested in is incredibly valuable.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions: The company/organization hired an intern for a reason. Companies want interns who are eager to learn. There is no textbook for how to have a successful internship so learn by experience. If they wanted an expert they would have hired a full time employee. Asking questions will help you make decisions about your career path. You can ask questions about work or professional life. Do you ever see coworkers on the weekend? Have you always been in this industry? How long is your commute to work?
- Always be early: Being early to work will show that you are excited for each day you have the opportunity to intern. You will learn by being early. Always give yourself ample time to get to the office in case of traffic or road closures.
- Keep an in-office journal: I kept a journal of industry terminology I heard around the office and in meetings. I would research and memorize them on the commute home from work to ensure I could meaningfully participate in conversations. Bring your journal to meetings or conferences, if someone asks you your opinion.
- Keep an org-chart in your desk: Your first week you will most likely be given a flow chart of your organization- hang on to it! If you are not given one don’t be afraid to ask. Your employer will like that you are taking an initiative to learn more about the company culture. Keeping an org-chart in your desk will allow you to understand the structure of your company. Who is your boss, who is your boss’s boss etc.? It will also help to put faces to names. Co-workers will be impressed that you know who they are.
- Be yourself: Always be yourself, a professional and genuine version of yourself. It is easy to tell if someone is being disingenuous and that is not the image you want to portray. If you are not yourself, you will never know how well you assimilate with the company environment.
- Study the company: Studying the company is especially imperative when interviewing. Understand what your company stands for rather than just what they do. Who are their competitors, why are they competitors? Who are the largest shareholders? Who is the CEO? Have they had any recent mergers? Where is the headquarters?
- Keep a personal notebook of your experience: It is easy to remember highlights of your experience and specific skills acquired at the time but what about 3 or 5 months later? Keeping a personal notebook to document your experiences is a great way to never forget what you learned. Make sure to date the pages so you can track your progress. Tape business cards and interesting meeting quotes inside. Make it reflective of your time. This will also come in handy if you ever have to write about your internship experience in class or discuss work experience with future employers.
Treat an internship as a full-time job and embrace every minute of it. Don’t worry about making mistakes- everyone makes them! I had my fair share of office mishaps. Whether it’s burning something in the office kitchen, getting a nametag stuck in your hair at a conference, or showing up to three wrong buildings before finding the correct location, mistakes happen. They are part of the learning experience!