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5 Things I Learned During my First Internship Experience

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After seven months at the Educational Service Center of Central Ohio, my time as the communications intern is coming to an end. The skills I have gained and the knowledge I am taking away are immeasurable. I could not have asked for a better first internship experience to build a foundation for my career. Summarized below are the most important aspects of this experience that I will carry with me to my future endeavors.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew. If there was one word to describe me as a student in both high school and college, it would be “overachiever.” I was the girl taking notes with colored pens who stayed after class to ask the teacher about my test, and I was involved in several extracurriculars. Little did I know, this word would transfer over to my professional life as well. 

I consider myself pretty good at multitasking and I like to stay busy. I also don’t like to say “no.” I feel as though I’m not living up to my potential if I say it. As an intern, I frequently worked on several tasks at a time, so I always had multiple items on my to-do list. Often, these tasks were assigned from other members of the communications team, not just my supervisor, and I would take on the challenge of completing them all. I wanted to check off everything on my list before my shift was over. This became extremely overwhelming, and sometimes, I found it affecting the quality of my work. In communications and marketing, quality is crucial. I learned it’s okay to say “no.” You don’t have to be the superhero. As much as we would love to be able to do everything under the sun, we are only human and can only do so much. 

It’s okay to make mistakes. This one was especially difficult in the beginning. All my life, I have considered myself a perfectionist, because I continuously strive to do my best. And honestly, I do not like to fail. Whether I was starting a new job or playing a new sport, I set a high standard for myself and expected to excel right away. While this can be a good thing because it motivates me to work harder, it also affects my perspective on self-worth. The fact that I constantly compare myself to others doesn’t make it any better, either. I often had to step back and remind myself that all of my co-workers in the office started from the bottom at some point in their career, also.

If I had a dollar for every mistake I made during my first few weeks as an intern, I could probably pay my rent for the rest of the year. From not tagging the right account on social media posts, to forgetting to send an important email, to the countless grammatical errors I overlooked in a blog, I beat myself up about all of them. The good thing about making mistakes though, is they become lessons learned. Mistakes are inevitable, but how you choose to recover from them is what really matters in the long run. The purpose of an internship is to grow and learn, so by the time you have a full-time job, those mistakes hopefully won’t be made. Interns are like a work in progress, and we are bound to be a little rough around the edges. 

Take risks. Try something new. Coming into the internship, I had very little professional experience. I really only knew the basics about social media marketing due to a position I held as a public relations chair my junior year at Ohio State. I’d say 95 percent of my assigned tasks in the beginning were social media related. While I love to do it and am passionate about it, I was eager for more. I wanted to dip my toes into various areas of marketing and communications to figure out my strengths and weaknesses, better preparing me for the future. 

For some reason, tackling Adobe Photoshop scared me. Just looking at it makes me anxious. However, I knew having some knowledge about it would strengthen my resume. I began working with another communications team member who specializes in graphic design on some projects that would allow me to improve my photoshop skills. Although I am nowhere near an expert, I am leaving with more knowledge than I came with, and I’m not scared anymore! By the end of my internship, I was creating blogs, newsletters, emails, website articles, graphics, and even an e-book. Stepping out of your comfort zone can be scary, but all it takes is a leap of faith to feel like you can conquer the world. 

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. I have always been one to ask lots of questions to ensure I know exactly what needs to be done and how to do it. Let’s be honest. At the beginning, I didn’t know how to do lots of things. But, as an overthinker, I was always concerned about being annoying or bothersome. It did not take long for me to understand that my supervisor and team members were not only there to help, but they wanted to help. They wanted me to succeed. After all, an internship is a learning experience, and the best way for me to learn is by asking questions. If my supervisor was in a meeting or not available at the moment, there was always someone on my team that I could turn to that was willing to help.

Keep an open mind and positive attitude. It is easy to get lost in the chaos of such a fast-paced environment. Every department at the ESC comes to Communications for their marketing needs, so lots of opinions and perspectives are involved. Not everyone is going to see eye to eye or agree with your designs/ideas—even people on your own team! You will need to make changes once, twice, and sometimes 10 times. No matter how many changes happen, you can’t take it personally because a majority of the time the changes will improve the product in the end. 

My advice to the next ESC Communications intern? Or really any interns? 
Internships are an opportunity to network and build lasting professional connections. Go the extra mile to reach out and form relationships with people from other departments. You never know who could be that one connection or may have that one resource to land you your dream job. Your enthusiasm, work ethic, and positivity will be what they remember most.

Madison Powers is the communications and marketing intern at the ESC. Madison is entering her senior year at The Ohio State University, studying Strategic Communication with a minor in Professional Writing. She has studied abroad in Italy, worked as a student caller at the Ohio State Call Center, assisted in research for the School of Communication, and served as public relations chair for Pink Out at Ohio State.