Undergraduate Blog / Career Development

Career Advice to Future Self

The summer is near its conclusion as we are close to entering August and so is my internship. While I am excitedly waiting to start my senior year, it will be sad leaving the American Heart Association at Denver. Throughout my internship, I learned a lot and developed immensely as a professional. Here are a few take aways from either what I did well or could have improved upon/will make more of an effort to do at my next job.

1) Everyone will have to deal with a commute. Build in adequate time to arrive at the office early in case of any unusual traffic or unexpected delays. In early July, a bridge that I travelled on everyday collapsed. Thanks to me leaving the house early every day, I was able to cushion the delay and still arrive on time. Don’t get too comfortable later in your internship that you feel as though you can time it exactly; accidents always happen, and you must be prepared. 

2) Talk more! I think the biggest mistake I made was not talking enough at first and developing key relationships around the office. I was expecting people to come to me, but I was wrong. It doesn’t matter who you talk to, you building relationships with someone in the office will make you more amicable to onlookers, thus creating a snowball effect. Plus, it’s more fun to have friends in the office. I didn’t start going out of my way until about half-way through and it makes such a difference.

3) Always have a background task. What do I mean by this? In the downtime between assigned tasks from your superiors, have a background task that you can work on but doesn’t necessarily have a deadline. For me, it was creating future social media pieces. This gives time to decompress and relax from more intensive or timely tasks. 

4) Notes. Take them. You may or may not be able to go through college without taking notes, but I learned that it is essential here. I can remember my homework at college, and having a syllabus always helps, but there’s no such thing at a workplace. Taking detailed notes of all my tasks and checking them off helped in my organization. As more a more work gets piled on, detail to those notes becomes valuable.

5) Start investing in a professional wardrobe. This sounds like a weird tip to put in but depending on your career/internship, you could find yourself short of professional clothes. Luckily, I had enough for my formality of work and a step above, but above that is where I would struggle. If you have to wear a suit every day, make sure you have enough where you can comfortably rotate them. 

6) Finally, it’s okay if you didn’t enjoy your internship or aspects of your internship. Mine was filled with plenty of highs and lows, and ultimately it was valuable in determining what I would like my career to look like. I learned (rather reinforced) that I don’t like sales. Contrarily, I learned that I thoroughly enjoy database management and social media design. It’s all valuable in deciding what you are passionate about.

Those are just some lessons that I noticed/wish I did better. I’ll take these tidbits and be sure to apply them to my next job and I encourage you to do similarly. Having said all this, I know there is still plenty of learning that must be done on the job, so be ready to adapt regardless of where you are.