When I think of “interns” my mind always goes to Andrea Sachs from “The Devil Wears Prada” where she is running around fetching coffee, working 24/7 and Miranda Priestly doesn’t even know her name. If you don’t know what I am talking about, go watch “The Devil Wears Prada” immediately; you won’t regret it. Granted, Andrea wasn’t actually an intern, rather a personal assistant, but I always think of that movie character when I think about interns.

Internships seem to have the stereotype of lowly, mind-numbing tasks that no one else actually wants to do so they fall to the intern, without actually allowing the experience to benefit your career path in some way. But this couldn’t be further from the truth when it comes to my experience. Everything I’ve learned and was challenged with, aided to my transition from intern into full-time associate publicist.

I could go on and on of the lessons I’ve learned since joining Choice in the industry of public relations and communications, but we might be here all day if I tried to do that. Simply put, from the interpersonal skills of interacting with media and juggling client needs to the industry skills of writing (not just a good pitch but a strong, compelling pitch that is going to appeal to media’s needs), to adjusting to new industry resources like Cision, Slack, Hootsuite, and WordPress, there is a lot to be learned!

But the most valuable lessons I have walked away with have been instilled in me through Heather, Kerry and the rest of the Choice team. They have little to do with the day to day work of an intern, but more with growing as an individual and challenging me to the best version of myself and my strengths.

Now that I’ve transitioned from intern to full-time Choice employee, here are three lessons learned from my experience:

  1. Take initiative. Your employer cannot read your mind. If you are excited about a new client or a project, tell them. Take initiative on things you want to work on and share enthusiasm about the projects you have been assigned. Outside of the office, if you don’t like where you are or what you are doing, then change it! The great thing about this life we live is we have a say in what we do, so take initiative and decide what you want and go out and get it. Think about where you want to be a year or five years from now or even ten years and strive toward those goals. I followed and paid attention to Choice for months before I secured my internship. I knew that it was a place I wanted to work and a team I wanted to surround myself with. There were many roadblocks in my way, but I was determined that working with these women would change my story. And, here I sit, after concluding my internship, with so much knowledge absorbed, relationships developed and a new full-time job as a part of the team! Believe in yourself first and drive toward that goal on the horizon by taking the initiative to get there.
  2. Ask questions about EVERYTHING. We cannot and are not expected to know everything. This may seem like a known assumption, but you’d be shocked how many times I have to remind myself! Sometimes I equate not knowing, with not being qualified, when in reality, it is impossible to already know everything expected of us. There will never be a moment in time when we are 100% an expert on any given subject; there is always room to grow. And, I’ve found that asking questions has served me well. Engaging with your coworkers has proven that they are grateful I am asking questions. First, it shows them I care about the quality with which I served. Second, it expressed my interest in learning from them and not just marking items off a to-do list. We can always learn and gain more knowledge. Be a constant learner.
  3. Raise your hand when you need help. Okay, this is the hardest lesson learned – both professionally and personally – and I still struggle with this every day. As an Enneagram 2 (The Helper), and as an intern trying to prove myself to the team, I wanted to take on anything I could to help. But, taking on one task here or one favor there adds up and there are only so many hours in a day. In the beginning, I found it challenging to raise my hand and ask for help. Not because I was intimidated or scared of rejection, but because I felt like asking for help at an entry-level position would make me be viewed as less of a worker in the eyes of my team. What I found (from their encouragement) was the exact opposite. The Choice team not only wants to see me succeed, but they care about my well-being first and foremost and don’t want to see me bursting at the seams with stress. Letting your coworkers or supervisor know you are overwhelmed will allow them to help 1) with your workload and 2) get behind you on any task at hand, in or out of the office. This idea of raising your hand can so easily be transferred into your personal life and can be as simple as telling your significant other or best friend “Hey. I am overwhelmed, and I could use some support.” To me, this is the most important lesson I have learned from my team, and I try to implement it as much as possible personally and professionally.

Like the ending of “The Devil Wears Prada” I walk away from my experience with confidence but unlike Andrea Sachs, I walk into a team that stands behind me, encourages me to learn and grow. The lessons I have learned thus far are just the beginning and will serve me well as I continue to build my career.

What were your best lessons from the beginning of your career?

    AUTHOR: Summer Clarkson
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