Undergraduate Blog / Career Development

How to overcome the “intern” label

Having internships during college is a great opportunity to learn and to start testing the waters before you go out in the real world. There are all kinds of internships, and each company treats their intern differently. But sometimes, we get stuck being labeled only as the “intern” and our opinion or work is not always taken seriously.  Just because you’re still in college, does not mean that you should just take on the work they give you and keep quiet. Like I said, internships are a place to learn, but they’re also a place to explore and sometimes take chances! Here are a few tips as to how you can go about making sure you’re involved in your work:

First things first, before you speak out make sure that you know what you’re talking about and that you’re ready to be challenged. The last thing you want is to randomly blurt out something in a big meeting with all your coworkers and have everyone stare at you. Make sure that what you’re going to say is relevant and helpful. Also: be confident, and believe in yourself.

Timing is also important. There’s a time and a place to speak up, and this is true whether you’re an intern or not. If you don’t feel confident speaking up with many people around, ask your boss or coworker if you can speak to them alone when they’re less busy.

Think about how you’re going to say it. I often prefer to talk face-to face instead of sending an e-mail, but that’s up to you. If it’s about something that you disagree with, always remember to be professional and polite, and remember that you might get criticism. Again: be prepared to be challenged, and to have a rational reason as to why you disagree.

Don’t just do the work that you’re assigned. Do extra, take on side projects, and ask your coworkers for advice or if they need any help. Especially in this stage of our collegiate lives, competition is high. Show that you’re interested in the work and that you’re willing to go that extra mile. Network with the employees of your company, go to seminars or events that are going on in town. Take the time to establish yourself and truly know the industry.

All that being said though, don’t be afraid to take risks and make mistakes. In the first few weeks of my internships, I would always feel embarrassed and scared to say something. Whenever I thought I had a point to say, I’d think “These people are so much smarter than me, they’ve probably already thought of this.” However, I was very lucky to have a great boss that would ask me if I had any thoughts, and I slowly started to gain confidence in voicing my opinion.

You’re there to learn, and your coworkers will (hopefully) understand that you’re trying to help. This is not perfect advice, and you will face rejection when speaking up. But there will also be times where your opinion is appreciated and heard.