10 Important Lessons You'll Learn During Your College Internship

College internships are absolutely necessary if you want to get a job straight out of college. Instead of taking the year after graduation to gain work experience, you can do so while in school! With so many universities offering internship programs, on campus internships and career fairs regularly, there is no excuse as to why you haven't found the internship that is right for you.

Prior to your first day, you worry about how to write the best resume possible and researching the location you will be working. It's not until you begin the work that you realize there is so much more to learn by being an intern besides a organization's statistics and history. The last semester of my senior year I spent interning with the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network as their Military Marketing Intern for sexual assault in the military. The skills and experiences I gained there have been applicable to every job I've been hired at since, which is why it is so important to soak in as much as you can in the limited time you have.

Be available to more than just your supervisor.

The head of your department only has so much work they can delegate to you, which is why you want to market yourself as willing to help anyone who is swamped with whatever project they are working on. As long as you keep your primary tasks a priority, there's no problem with aiding other coworkers or interns with their assignments.

Emphasize your extracurriculars in your resume.

What's the point of being part of student organizations if you're not going to use them to your advantage? This is especially true if you hold a leadership position. Being a Psychology and Women's Studies major meant I took zero classes on social media and marketing, but that didn't mean I had no idea how to use social media to market a product or organization. Mention the positions you hold and what organizations you are a member of. Just because the time you spend somewhere is unpaid doesn't make the skills you learned any less valuable.

Befriend your fellow interns.

Take time to get to know not only your supervisors, but your fellow interns as well. These are the people that are interested in the same things as you, whether that's social media management or an organization's mission statement. Keeping in touch with them after your internship ends is an easy way to network after college, plus, they can also serve as a reference later!

They want you to ask questions.

At the end of my internship my supervisor sat down with me and reviewed my time at the organization. She had nothing but positive things to say, except for one thing, she wanted me to ask more questions! Not because I had done anything wrong, simply because it would have given me an easy way to work with people who I otherwise had no reason to talk to. At the time I thought it was a strange suggestion but it makes sense now. What's the best way to start a conversation with someone? Ask them a question! So learn from my mistakes and ask all the dumb questions you want, your coworkers want you to be engaged in the work you do!

Most people don't know what they're doing after college.

With my first internship taking place my last semester in college, I was hoping I'd somehow figure out my next step in the 4 months I was spending with the organization. Even though I knew grad school was in the future, I was completely confused about when or where to go. My supervisor and friends at work reassured me that they all felt the same way come graduation time, and many didn't land a job they were passionate about until a few years after. So rest assured, you're not alone in having no set direction.

Don't be afraid to apply for internships outside your field.

During college I took zero marketing or communications courses. With two declared majors, I had little space in my schedule for elective courses outside my field, but I didn't let that stop me from branching out. Don't be afraid to take the skills you learn outside the classroom and use them towards your advantage when applying for positions. I may not be a marketing major, but being a social media manager for Her Campus gave me the skills necessary to feel confident listing it on my resume.

Don't compare yourself to other interns.

Remember how I said most people don't know what they're doing after college, well, most people dont. Then there's those lucky few that know exactly what school they'll be attending or already have an offer from a great job. Don't worry if your fellow interns have done this sort of thing every single semester and already know the ins and outs on how to use the copy machine. Focus on your own growth and experiences at the company and rest assured that all the extracurriculars in the world won't automatically land you a job after college.

Stay in touch with people from the office.

While you don't need to send them holiday cards and email them constantly, staying in touch with past interns and coworkers serves two purposes; expands your professional network and provides you a reference. Once you graduate college no one is going to ask you for your grades, employers are much more interested in people who can vouch for you. Sending a thank you email once an internship has ended and connecting on spaces such as LinkedIn ensures that the people you work with don't forget who you are without you having to constantly remind them about your time there.

Take advantage of every opportunity to be involved. 

One afternoon my supervisor asked me if I wanted to go visit a joint base with her the next day at 7 am, meaning I'd have to face my boss before the sun had risen. I said yes. Not only was the trip much more exciting than any day I spent in the office, from this day forward my boss reached out to me for other opportunities outside the office. Had I said no, who knows what I would have been included in, which is why it is so important you take advantage of all opportunities. Yes, waking up early sucked, but in return I was able to do hands on work for the people I usually just spoke through over email.

You will run out of work to do...

It's what you do with that time that determines how valuable your internship is. My tasks as the Military Marketing Intern was to help the Marketing Manager write blog posts to promote Sexual Assault Awareness Month and fulfill orders for the organization's promotional merchandise.The thing was, I usually finished all my work before lunch time. This is why I made an effort to reach out to the Social Media Manager to see if she needed help with anything or stopping by the content designers desk to lend a helping hand. Using my free time to network around the office not only helped me form more connections, it prevented me from sitting unproductively at my desk.

Did I completely miss something? Share in the comments below any tips you have on landing the best internship and what you learned from you internship experience!

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  1. I love that you mentioned you will run out of work to do because it's so accurate! Some days, you work ahead and have a full days worth of assignments, and other days, you have a meeting or two, and that's it. It's how productive and proactive you are in the office that shows the value of your internship. Commenting via The Blogging Elite from blissfullybrunette.com

    1. I seriously have spent so many days just looking for something to do cause I finished all my work. I used to feel a bit guilty but I just realized even now with my real job, sometimes you dont need 8 hours lol

  2. That's an awesome internship. I wish I had the same experience as you. I unfortunately got stuck in a small internship at a tiny urgent care office (instead of the headquarters) and ended up basically helping to check people in at the front.

    1. That sounds kinda fun though! My first internship taught me one big thing, I have ZERO interest in working in an office. I cannot sit at a desk all day for the rest of my life, I need human interaction

  3. I feel you especially with the "run out of work" ones. I usually finish my work before lunchtime as well. Sometimes, there are just so little tasks available, especially when there are four interns aside from me. If there's absolutely no task, I tend to talk with those who have free time just to have a feel of the place and to know if I'll love working in the industry. The others are also very true. Loved your post, Rubi! This will be very helpful to those who will just start their internship or those who are already doing it.

    Love, Richel | Richel Goes Places

    1. Oh man, if I had four other interns working with me I would have probably spent my days just staring at my computer monitor. Luckily it was just me and my supervisor in the marketing department.

  4. I love how accurate your points are! My college is ending in few months and except of academic worries, I have a lot of tension for internship, too. I am going to apply for a summer school abroad that would require some sort of experience. I am hoping to get through this phase successfully with a fun internship (as I say this, I'm shuddering with the fear of uncertainty). I am SO glad to read this post.

    Noor | Noor's Place

    1. I studied abroad for a while and I 1000% recommend it. Especially if you can manage to find an internship abroad! But I can understand how stressful that can be, I spent months worried no one would accept any of my applications, good luck!! :)