Instead of slathering on sunscreen and relaxing by a pool on the first Monday of summer vacation, I entered the office of a magazine in my hometown. I smiled as I took in the desks, the posters of past issues on the walls, the staff members flitting in and out.This was to be my workplace for the next few months.
This summer, I worked as an intern for the first time at a local magazine. Throughout my experience, I've traveled to new places, interviewed more people than I can count and learned lessons that will stay with me for years to come. I strongly encourage all students to get an internship in their field. Not only is it a great resume-builder, but it has also taught me many things I wouldn't have learned otherwise. Here are the top seven things I've learned.
1. Talking on the Phone
During my internship, I was responsible for writing a number of articles for each month's publication. This meant that I had to interview the people involved with the topic of each article—usually, a PR person for an event or someone involved in a "human interest"-type piece. These people were from all over the region, so I had to conduct many interviews via telephone or internet. Like many teens today, I find it much easier to text than to pick up the phone and dial a number. But in this setting I had to adapt. I began by writing out what I had to say before I picked up the receiver. By the end I became much more comfortable with speaking over the phone, and since this is a skill I'll probably need in any field, I'm extremely grateful that I was able to practice it this summer.
2. Co-Existing with Co-workers
Fortunately, the staff at the magazine I worked with were all very encouraging and supportive. They were always there to help when I was first getting started, and I knew I could turn to them if I had any questions. That being said, it was still an adjustment to work in an environment with other people. I quickly learned that I was just one piece of the puzzle that made the magazine successful. My job was to make my articles the best they could be. The other staff members had their own responsibilities. In short, it took a team effort -- the owner, editor, advertising agents and graphic designers all worked alongside myself and the other interns to complete the final layout each month. It was both exciting and humbling to be a part of an operation that was much bigger than myself.
3. Working on a Deadline
The magazine I worked for is a monthly publication. In order to put the magazine out on time each month, I had to have my articles in a few weeks in advance of the print date. Working on a deadline wasn't new to me, since I wrote for the school newspaper during my freshman year. However, the deadlines here were for considerably more articles in considerably less time. I didn't mind holding myself to that deadline, but in this case there were other people involved. Every time I tried to set up a last-minute interview, I had to be nice, but slightly aggressive (I NEED YOU TO ANSWER TODAY!!!...please?) in order to get my articles in on time. Since I'm generally not a very pushy person, this was initially challenging for me. Now though, I feel as though I've come a long way towards mastering a polite, yet firm tone.
4. Double-Checking My Work...
Many of the articles I wrote were related to community events. They included dates, times and locations that I had to get exactly right. Of course, we had a great editor that oversaw the whole operation, but much of the initial editing fell on me, the writer. No one was going to fact-check my articles if they seemed correct; there was too much else to do. I got into the habit of looking over my notes twice each time to be sure I had the correct information, just in case. The community depends on this magazine to provide accurate information about local events, and I always wanted to give it to them!
5. ...and Accepting That I'm Not Perfect
That being said, I did make mistakes. And because I did, I had to let go of the belief that I wrote perfect articles 100% of the time. One of the main points of an internship is that it is a learning experience; you're there to test out your field, try your hand at new skills and learn from both the good and the bad. I certainly learned a lot from my mistakes--I now know a lot more about being graceful in the face of defeat, writing an apology letter and letting go of my failures. And to triple-check my writing the next time!
6. Dealing with Stress
Like any job, there were periods of stress. Sometimes an interview fell through and had to be rescheduled close to the deadline. Sometimes I had only a few hours to edit a layout before it was sent out to print. And sometimes the pressure of working both an internship and a part-time job made me want to just throw in the towel and escape to the beach. But I was able to work through the stress each time by taking a deep breath and prioritizing my responsibilities. Sticky notes became my friend; I set a list of goals for each day and was usually able to accomplish them. This way, things didn't seem so overwhelming. In some ways, I even liked the stress--it motivated me to get things done quickly!
7. Creative Problem-Solving
During one of my first weeks in the office, my employer said one of the most valuable lessons to learn was how to solve problems creatively. This stuck with me throughout the summer. Every so often, an issue would pop up that made me think outside the box. Whether it was getting in touch with an advertiser at the last minute, thinking of a creative title or even pitching in to help write an ad, I was drafted into many tasks that didn't follow the pattern of a typical day. I enjoyed these tasks as much--if not more than--my usual responsibilities. It was fun to puzzle out ways to accomplish an unusual task, and it was always satisfying when it turned out right!
I thoroughly enjoyed my intern experience this summer. Hopefully I'll carry all of the lessons I learn throughout the rest of my college career and eventually into my field. I highly recommend an internship to anyone looking to get a taste of the workplace!