From changing my major 3 times to being hospitalized 4 times (a story for another time), I can say a lot of stuff has happened in my life since I started college at the University of Texas at Austin just 4 years ago. As a senior, I have completed 8 internships ranging from radio and editing with HOT 95.7, producing and directing videos for a college, graphic design and marketing with a startup, media planning and strategy in New York City, digital creative for Motoza, to vaccinating and treating animals in a veterinary clinic…among a few others. As you can guess, I’ve had a lot of various opportunities to test out different career fields, to figure out how to overcome obstacles, and most importantly, to grow and explore my passions limitlessly.
Ever since I was young, I wanted to be a veterinarian, or so I had thought. I believe my interest in animals is rooted from a project in the 3rd grade where we had to do research on a scientist and dress up as them on the day we presented. I chose Jane Goodall, a renowned primatologist, and proudly presented in my best jungle outfit with a stuffed monkey on my shoulder. Jane Goodall’s passions for protecting chimpanzees and conserving the natural world thus sparked my desire to help animals. I decided at age 8 that I was going to be the “voice for the voiceless” and become a veterinarian when I “grow up.” So, at the age of 16, I secured an internship at my local animal hospital as a veterinary technician and really learned a lot about veterinary medicine from my boss, Dr. Lee. Although I have now ended up with a career path focused on design and art direction of the Advertising industry, Dr. Lee taught me professionalism and how to deliver the best service to our customers at a young age through my very first internship.
Now, let me establish right now that I’m not saying everyone needs to complete as many as 8 internships as I did during college! Personally for me, it was a necessary process of testing out my different interests to see what truly sparked my passions and would lead me to a career choice that I would be truly happy with. I’ve been able to learn what my biggest strengths are, along with areas of improvement I should work on. Here are a few main take-a-ways I’ve gathered from my internship experiences and how I got the most out of every opportunity.
Don’t be afraid to ask
Ask lots of questions! Seriously. Its ok to not know everything — that is the whole point of your internship experience. You’re there to learn everything you can, or are willing to. One thing my supervisors have told me throughout my internships is that they appreciated my desire to learn. I have come to realize that asking questions is not a bad thing if it will help
Networking and making connections
Take advantage of your surroundings. And by surroundings, I mean the people you are surrounded by! Unglue yourself from your desk and get to know the people you are working with whether it’s the other interns, your supervisors, or your coworkers. In most cases, your time at your internship limited. Make the most of this time and widen your professional network while creating relationships and friendships along the way. Be proactive. If your work is having a work function, go introduce yourself and talk to new people. This is a great way to make connections and to ensure you are remembered.
Take criticism constructively
As an intern, it’s usually expected that you’ll make some mistakes, and that is absolutely ok. It is all part of the learning experience. Sure, no one likes to be criticised and evaluated but if you take feedback constructively, you will be able to learn so much. Never think of it personally, it is all for your own personal growth and betterment. It will improve your quality of work and you’ll be able to apply what you learned to new opportunities.
Work hard no matter what you’re doing
While you may have some unglamorous or seemingly unimportant tasks as an intern day-to-day, you should still work hard as this will help you build a good work ethic. Don’t worry, your effort won’t go unnoticed. Your supervisor will definitely notice if you have a good attitude and put in the work. If you have good mentors like I have been blessed to have, they will genuinely care about your goals and will make sure every task assigned, no matter how small, is for your own betterment. Even though you’re technically at the bottom of the food chain — oops I mean career ladder — you are still needed and even your basic work will go appreciated!
Being an intern can be tough sometimes. Trust me, I know, especially after my 8 internship experiences. However, if you take internships as a time to gain experience, to cultivate relationships and friendships, and even to have fun along the way, you’ll be opening the door to so many more opportunities for your future.