Our Experts | Anna Lemmon
The summer before my senior year of college, I started my first professional internship in the corporate office of one of the largest jewelry retailers in the world. Although I was almost done with my college career, I had really only done classroom assignments and about ten news stories for the school paper– my real-world experience left something to be desired.
I applied and interviewed with the biggest group of students who had ever applied for a summer position, with just three open spots available. My supervisor later told me I got a spot not because of my experience, but because of the attitude I had in my interview. She said my excitement and willingness to learn earned me one of the three coveted positions. Lesson number one learned: show your eagerness for the position and make it clear that even if you don’t have the experience, you are more than willing to learn.
When I started the job, I learned my second very important lesson: take responsibility for your mistakes, and learn a way to fix and prevent the same mistake from happening. My mistake was on an analytic report in which a final reported number was wrong. My supervisor calmly took me aside and told me she was up all night trying to fix it. While she clearly could have yelled at me, she told me that mistakes happen, and even shared her own story of making a big mistake early in her career. She advised me from then on to put all of my numbers in an Excel sheet to keep track of and correctly add the data. Ever since that day, I have used Excel for any numerical reports.
The third big lesson I learned at my internship was the concept of managing up. My supervisor gave me some great advice on what I could do to help her because that was the whole reason I was there. Instead of waiting for projects to be handed to you, go ahead and ask your boss what you can do to help. If you have access to your boss’s calendar, check to see if they have a busy day and offer your assistance to take a load off. If you know there is a review coming up, ask if there’s anything you can do to help– create a report, put together a presentation, make imageboards, etc. The concept of managing up shows your boss that you pay attention to detail, you are going above and beyond and are overall a reliable worker.
These are just a few of the lessons I learned in my first professional internship, although I know there are many more to come now that I am in my first professional job. Never forget the important lessons you learn early on and how to revitalize them throughout your career. What invaluable lessons have you learned?