4 Things I Wish I Knew When I First Interned

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Strictly speaking, our ‘first job’ is often not really our first – it is the internship. Although always the shortest working experience that we had, it gave the most remarkable, if not embarrassing, memories.

To all ambitious ladies and gentlemen out there who can’t wait to hit the ground running at their new internship, it may be helpful to consider the following things I wish I knew when I first interned.

1. “First Impressions Count” – Be Humble

True, you may be the best in school, the Mister or Miss Know-it-all among your peers; but the game starts all over again the minute you step foot in a new company. One minute, you’re at the top of the world (because of your top-tier University or family background) but the next, you are the coffee boy in the team. Some undergrads find it hard to adapt to the disparity. But remember: no matter what the task (and there will be boring, tedious or low-level ones), prove yourself capable, be humble and do it with a smile. You’ll soon be trusted with more complex and interesting tasks that you deserve.

2. “May the Force be with You” – Be Courageous to Ask

As simple as it seems, it is nevertheless a loophole that many well-educated interns fall prey to. To you, it may be a one-month internship that has nothing to do with you anymore after these thirty days, so many interns do not bother, or are too passive, to seek instructions when in doubt. Ultimately, your work time is doubled when you have to fix and redo the tasks – time not spent making a great impression elsewhere.

Bear in mind,: first, it is not always your superior trying to test you, it is just that they are used to the tasks, so all you need to do is take the initiative to clarify; second, completing your work on time may be good as a student but it’s just the passing line to an intern. Work performance carries equal weight as work ethics; your ability to take the first move, ask what else needs to be done and get ahead on tasks is more likely to earn you a shiny reference letter.

3. “Never Eat Alone” – Network, Network, and Network

There are interns who are too focused at work, appearing aloof in the eyes of others. They seem to have forgotten work performance does not only cover output quality but also their ability to get along with team members, which is indeed a very helpful shortcut to make their life easier in the company. Remember, you are here to get a taste of the corporate culture and to network, so, get drenched in social meetups, be proactive, always find a way to volunteer and offer a helping hand.

4. Be a Grownup

Some of us are lucky enough to intern with our college buddies, which is where the trap is laid. Having friends around makes everything feels like campus, and we soon forget all professional workplace manners. High volume gossiping, coarse language and badmouthing, what seems cool in the campus may ruin you in the office. An internship is not about honoring yourself in earning a job opportunity in a multinational brand; it is to mark your beginning in becoming a real adult.

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Sophia Wong

Brand and Marketing Strategist in Hong Kong, writes about career, job hunting and interview tips.

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