Now that everyone is a few weeks into their new dreamy internship I've received a few questions about how to kick-ass at intern-life. No, it's not nearly as glamorous as it appears and yes, almost everyone sucks at being an intern the first month. I received an internship my Sophomore year of college and made some massively expensive business decisions, got my butt kicked when I thought I knew it all and failed time after time. I am not by any means the best designer, but I do know what hard work feels like and what success looks like.
It’s one thing to obtain an internship but it's another thing to be a kick-ass intern. Here are a few top rules to live by:
1. You don't know it all - and that's okay. If you knew it all you'd be running your own shop and not interning. School teaches you the fundamentals of design thinking and practices but your job will give you experience on applying these to real clients with real deadlines and a real budget. You are there to learn and to hopefully land a full-time gig. Say 'yes' to every opportunity presented to you because you never know who you will impress or who you will meet. This is the time in your career to get your ass kicked by your art director - ask questions, stupid questions, smart questions, the same question... learn everything you possibly can.
2. Take your internship seriously. Show up on time. Don't brag about getting wasted and throwing up on the side of a building the night before. NEVER post anything bad about one of your companies clients on Facebook. Now is the time to be a Sussie-Do-Good and pay attention during meetings. Make sure you are communicating with your teammates about projects and be vocal if you can help. If you have something to complain about make sure it is presented in a mature way with a possible solution.
3. Exceed expectations. The one plus side of coming right out of school is that you aren't jaded by the industry and don't know the rules of the business. This is a great opportunity for you to share what you know about the latest technology, processes or programs. You never know when your idea may help a client or change the way a business interacts. If you have down time make sure you aren't just surfing Facebook but are working on skills that will make you stand out.
4. Set goals and keep track of your progress. Make your goals specific, like 'I want to learn how to better put a mood board together' or 'I want to learn how to deliver an effective presentation'. Once you've come up with your goals make sure your creative director knows and make a game plan of how you can accomplish them. If there isn't bi-weekly meetings between you and your boss set up some time to go over what you completed last week, what your working on and what projects/goals are in the future. Typing up a sheet like this each week will help you keep track of everything you did during your internship and is a great tool to help you get hired when the time comes.
5. Understand that the success of your internship is completely up to you. You are the one to decide how much effort you put towards your day-to-day interactions, attitude and projects. You could skate through your internship without absorbing strategy, design process and work culture but that wouldn't make you a good employee to keep around. Make connections with those around you on a business and personal level. If you admire someone you work with try and emulate their attitude and characteristics. Have any other advice?