A Nearly Complete Guide to Internships

Since you have stumbled upon this blog post, you are probably trying to find an interesting internship. You are in luck to have found your way here, because after completing a three-month internship and then turning it into a permanent job I can truly call myself an internship expert. Or, I know at least something about the topic. Here are some things I hope are going to help you in planning your internship.

What’s it like to do an internship?

Even though the common conception of an internship mostly involves making coffee and hanging out with the photocopier, it can be so much more. At least here at Paper Planes I got to get down to business right away, and during my summer here I got the chance to pen blog posts about summer cabins, visit the Housing Fair press event and familiarize myself with the wonderful world of Adobe Experience Manager. Well, okay, I admit there were some more boring assignments as well, such as the seemingly endless task of collecting Twitter accounts into an excel file (don’t even ask), but mostly I got to do really interesting things.

Obviously your coworkers also play a big part in your internship experience. After all, you spend almost half of your waking hours with them, especially if you only have one big desk at work. Fortunately, the guys at Paper Planes are all really nice, relaxed and fun (and no, no one made me write this sentence). So I like coming to work, even if I don’t always have the most interesting assignment to look forward to.

Not everyone of course has as positive an experience during their internship. But if you manage to find a good place, your internship can be an interesting and fun time in your life instead of something you just have to do to earn your degree. So you should think carefully where you want to do it.

But how can you get a good internship?

By applying. If you happen to run into a great internship opportunity, apply straight away. Apply even if you haven’t even had the chance to think about doing an internship yet. You can never know if you’re going to find such an opportunity ever again. I got my internship by dragging myself down to the English Philology (my major) job fair during break week. One of the alumni speaking at the event was Ville Pelttari from the brand new content agency Paper Planes. Since I was interested in the field, I decided to apply for an internship there, and lo, here I am.

Usually you won’t just be offered an internship on a silver platter, so you should send applications to all places that seem interesting. Open applications, too. Internships aren’t always advertised, and companies might only pick an intern if they come across a suitable one. Even so, they might get tons of applications, so you should really put some effort into yours. For example, if you are interested in writing, show off your skills by coining an excellent, flawless application. And you shouldn’t stall and wonder whether you are emotionally ready or if you have enough job experience. I didn’t think I did. You do an internship to learn – the most important thing is that you have potential. So, it’s always worth a shot, at least.

I’ve got an internship already. What now? How do I turn it into a permanent job?

Show interest in the field – if you really are interested in it. (And if you’re not, why on earth would you want to continue working there?) By asking questions you not only get to learn new things, but you also show your employer that you want to work in the field in the future, as well. That you are there to learn, not just to collect study credits and a small-ish salary.

Ask if you can do more. Sometimes you run out of things to do, but you shouldn’t head straight for YouTube to stare at cat videos. Ask if there is something else you can do. This way you’ll show initiative and might even get to do harder and more interesting assignments.

Don’t be afraid to take risks. Especially when it comes to creative work, it’s important that your work isn’t just mediocre. So don’t play it safe. If you have crazy ideas, try to find a way to utilize them. The works of an intern always go through a supervisor’s quality-control check, so you’ll know if you went totally over the top.

If you don’t know something, ask. Remember that you’re only an intern. That is a great excuse for not knowing something, since it’s not really expected of you. Sometimes an assignment or a concept can seem obvious for a more senior colleague, so they might not realize that the average person might never have heard of it before. In this case it’s best to be brave and ask for more information instead of just guessing. Or you might end up doing something really strange.

Be the best. Wellyoudon’thavetoactuallybethebestateverythingalways. But always do your best. Don’t rush things or half-ass them. On the other hand, don’t get stuck endlessly polishing your work. As you might have guessed, work is often a balance act between deadlines and perfectionism.

Finally, remember to have fun. Even though the intern is usually at the bottom of the workplace totem pole, it doesn’t mean that the others see you as a slave. They, too, want you to have a good time. Everyone has started at the bottom. So, don’t take things too seriously and make the most of your time there.