Most people feel like champs upon graduating college. Some don’t. Being rejected from job interview after job interview you had lined up during school, unable to fallback on some high school job from an employer who liked you, and having no professor feedback to feed your insatiable ego still suck in 15 years of academia, you’re probably ready to kill yourself.
1. Be involved. The more initiation you show, the more your employer will challenge you to grow. Yes, that means taking on more responsibilities, but you’re showing that you can handle it and do more than brew coffee and make copies. I’m primarily a graphic designer, but as of late, I’ve been doing more around the office and now I’m even consulted in other areas just because I’ve shown interest and the willingness to try my hand.
2. Exercise yourself. If you must complete tasks of a certain nature at work, exercise similar mental skills at home to expand proficiency. If you are typing all day at work, take 20 minutes at home to improve the amount of words you can type per minute so that when you’re at work you can get more done. Or finish your work ahead of time and not get caught watching The Cleveland Show. I practiced using my job’s web interface at home and uploading dummy products while trying to exceed my time so that I could get more done in less time and make fewer mistakes while exploring other potential avenues of doing things.
3. Be honest. That doesn’t mean tell your boss you hate it when he tells you what to do. And for the love of Sofia Vergara, please don’t use this item as the gospel for telling your boss he has B.O., and don’t come after me when you get fired. Instead, try to have a comfortable relationship where your honest opinion (edited from time to time in varying situations at your discretion) can be heard so your perspectives are on the same page, if it’s necessary to the business.
4. Evaluate expectations often. When you start working, set goals and discuss what you want to get out of the work experience and what your boss expects of you. Also, convene sometime later to discuss the actuality of your experience and what you want to change/alter from the initial meeting. It might mean the difference between standing at the copier all day and going out to investigate a local story. (In some employers’ defense: They might feel you are there because you think you have to be there and are simply nice enough to give you busywork while you are on Facebook all day. Unless you indicate that you want to do more–and not in a way where you’re stepping on the toes of actual staff members–you might get some play in the field, or the chance to shadow an expert.)
5. Brew Coffee. Internships have this aura of respectability, especially now that they’re pretty much mandatory if you’re going to be competitive straight out of college in the job market. And I know I totally lambasted it in point 1, but you can use coffee brewing time to your advantage. As you grind beans, boil water, and wait for the brew to be completed, listen. Just keep quiet and listen. What are other employees saying? What is your boss talking about/doing? It’s fun to show off, but you show how well you integrate into the workplace by going with the flow. But in order to go with the flow, you have to know which way the river is going. And despite this being a cryptic point, you’ll know what to do when you know when/where you are. Believe… believe… lieve… eve………… *Echoes end in deafening and sobering silence as you now have the faith and knowledge to do that thing you have to do.*
6. Pass Time Productively. Instead of catching up with episodes of Grey’s Anatomy you can watch at home in lieu of masturbating (or while–I won’t judge), learn more about your industry. What’s going on at the top? For brownie points, do a project specifically relating to your company showing potential growth in markets untapped, or risk assessment of carrying potentially racist products. Put those liberal arts theories to use! (This might actually be the only time you get to do so blatantly! I mean, I was only once able to utilize Burke’s Theory of Identification outloud without looking like a total egghead.) Anyway, the time will be well spent and you’ll show aptitude (echoing points 1 and 2) as well as gaining valuable feedback from your boss.
So there’s that. I’ve had an internship each summer since I was a sophomore in high school and these points have definitely gotten me great letters of recommendation as well as, currently, an actual job. I guess they’re worth a shot. Lemme know how it works for you!