Surviving a New Internship

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What have I been doing this summer?  Trying to stay afloat of a new job; an “adult job,” in the Public Relations Department of a corporate company.  Instead of working at a country club as a tennis coach for the past three summers out in the sun, I am inside at my cubicle 5 days a week, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.  But let’s be honest, I’m gaining SO much more experience, making meaningful connections, and earning a nice dollar or two more than the past few summers.

Walking into my first day at the job was like walking onto Iowa State the first day of Freshman year.  Whether your summer job is at the office or at the local fast food joint, the situation is basically the same as being a clueless, nervous, and slightly out of breath new student trying to find the right classroom (or orientation room) not overachieving-ly too early but also not noisily too late.

I know it’s scary, but take those first couple weeks as your opportunity to set the tone as the type of friend and worker you will portray yourself for the next three months.  Take advantage and launch in to those first weeks with gusto.  I am three weeks into my new internship and have 3 tips from what I’ve learned, but also a couple tips from returning interns.

Tip 1: Take a deep breath, turn to the person next to you, and give em’ a handshake

Remember all those seminars the LAS Career Services put on about elevator speeches at Career fairs?  This is basically the same thing.  If you never attended (please consider this Fall!) I’ll refresh your memory:

SMILE, hold out your hand, and say something as simple as “Hi!  My name is Nicole.  I am the new Public Relations Intern this summer.  What is your position here at ______?”

Your adult co-workers know your brain is exploding with new information, and will take the conversation over from there.

This is seriously how I made many friends the first day that I regularly hang out with now.  The deep breath part is not a joke; breathe in all your anxiety and slowly exhale it all out as you turn, smile, shake, and possibly meet the manager who will give you excellent recommendations in the future.

Tip 2:  Treat everyone you meet like they are the CEO…you never know how high up they are.

Apparently I happened to talk to the second in command of my company the very first day.   Did I know this?  Not at all.  But I smiled, made polite conversation, and kept it pretty formal.  Be wary of venting your complaints or engaging in more casual conversation with brand new people.  Until you are at least a month in, treat everyone like they are the CEO.

See this awesome organization? I would be proud to have a higher-up come visit me at my desk.


I cannot stress this enough: if there are any programs outside of your day-to-day work, do it!  Kickball leagues, book clubs, or even shadowing opportunities.  This is where you are going to make actual friends instead of just co-workers, plus you will have more things to talk about around the office.  For example I’ve signed up for the annual picnic, even though interns are not required to bring anything.  I have already had a few co-workers come up to me and tell me it was nice that I signed up!

Blog Post by: Nicole Suchsland- Junior Public Relations Major from Chicago, IL.

Read Surviving an Internship: Part 2