6 Tips for Surviving Your Internship This Semester
Surviving your internship doesn’t have to be a semester-long nightmare. Sure, life as a full-time student is hard. Yes, it’s harder as a full-time student with an internship.
I have taken on various internships since my second year of college, and the rewards have been fruitful yet trying. I’ve learned the environments in which I’m most productive, how many hours I can work before I need a break, and the values I look for in future employers and companies. I have also learned that timeliness, confidence, and well-placed energy are some of the biggest lessons that you can learn from your internship.
Below is some advice that I’ve personally used or am working on to improve my capabilities as an employee, student, and well-rounded person.
First one in, last one out
Of course, you know you should be on time for work. Everyone knows that. But only the best interns understand that “on time” actually means “15 minutes early.”
There are many benefits to arriving early to your job. You have time to get all of your thoughts straight, make last-minute changes that you remembered the night before, and get an early start on your next project. Being the first one at the office means mentally preparing for a productive day; being the last to leave the office shows your dedication to your work and the company.
Speaking from personal experience, I particularly enjoyed being the first one in the office. I was given a set of keys to the building since I lived two blocks away while everyone’s commute was 15 minutes or longer. I would come in at least 20 minutes earlier to make coffee, set up my laptop and work, and get a few tasks done before other people could distract me with conversation.
Maintain a polished image
Maintaining an image of a hard-working, respectable intern is important. The way you dress tells your colleagues what kind of person you are. If you are not mindful of your appearance in your workplace, the untidy blouse or ripped jeans tells others that you are not serious or caring enough. Try to keep a simple, minimal look and have staple pieces in your wardrobe, like dark close-toed shoes and a blazer jacket.
For more tips on how to dress for your internship, check out former Uloop writer Walbert Castillo’s advice on men’s attire for an interview. For the ladies, Lillian Lu recommends, “If you wear a pencil skirt, make sure it hits your knees and is coupled with opaque tights.”
It never hurts to establish a trusting relationship with your manager. Being able to effectively communicate your concerns, intentions, and decisions with your boss will enhance your ability to perform. Francine Fluetsch also notes, “You don’t have to get everything perfect the first time, and it is much better to clarify the situation and get it right than just winging it and then having to redo it.”
Your manager will also be impressed with your confidence to share great advice and pitch ideas. If you’re going to ask your manager for a recommendation letter later, let there be something memorable about your work ethic and ability that he or she can build on.
Eat healthy meals regularly to monitor and replenish your strength. If you were a lazy student before you started this internship, you’re about to realize that skipping meals and eating junk food will not cut it in once you begin a job. You are now busy for most of the week and don’t have time to prepare a proper breakfast anymore. Alexia Gonzalez shares some of her favorite breakfast recipes as well as lunch prep tips to save you the stress and time.
Rest as much as needed
Do NOT try to tackle the day without rest. I promise it almost never goes well. Your focus is depleted because your mind does not have the energy to fully attend to your work. If you are working on spreadsheets and numbers, you will probably miscalculate and be too lazy to check your work. Sleeping a healthy amount of hours every night keeps you sharp and ready to work the next day.
Tend to your psychological needs too
You’re working hard to build experience and to learn how to maintain a certain lifestyle. You’re putting in long hours at your internship because you want to do well. This means you have less time to do the things that you want to do. You skip on that spontaneous trip with your friends and forget to call your parents. Soon, you’ll realize your social skills have decayed and being in public makes you anxious. While an internship is probably not as demanding as a full-time position, you should still set time apart to nurture and improve relationships. It is a need for your well-being, after all.
According to psychologist Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs model, people are driven by certain needs. While it is difficult to achieve self-actualization, the sense of belonging to relationships and social groups can improve your mood and health outside of the office. Planning to meet with some friends after work can motivate you to do well throughout the day.