5 Tips for First-Time Interns

September 7, 2021

By Justin Smith, Summer 2021 Marketing Intern

As a marketing intern at HPM this summer, I have been motivated by the work done at HPM to further push the envelope in the construction management industry. Serving as an intern reminds me of a fact we don’t talk about enough: we should all work an internship before we go into the workforce. I believe the skills, techniques, and valuable lessons I have picked up during my internship have been copious and seriously valuable in my career journey, so I decided to note my top five most beneficial tips for first-time interns. 

1. Ask questions, literally, every single one of them! 

If you are unsure about something, make sure your supervisor knows it. One of the best advantages of being an intern is that any questions related to the work of your employer are fair game because you are technically there to learn and grow within your role. I started off my internship at HPM by asking about everything I could and took it upon myself to do further research on the topic at hand. By jokingly introducing myself as the Chief Crazy Question Asker, I built a new level of affability, which is not required but extremely worth building with your team. 

2. Watch and learn. 

Understanding how to navigate corporate circles is said by many to be one of the most challenging skills to master in a new job, right alongside public speaking. Watching and listening to what is being said and done around you allows you to navigate in virtually any space. I believe it is important to read each room you walk into to successfully understand the mood and overall “vibe.” This tip is important because it teaches you to be yourself in all situations, while still respecting the boundaries of your coworkers and moving the company forward.  

3. Learn to fail if you want to succeed.

Being mindful of how you present yourself to your team is key to mastering your internship experience. This comes along with learning the overall culture of your workplace, which is critical because you must understand and trust the people you work with. Being an intern gives you a low-risk chance to experience almost all aspects of being in the corporate workplace, from the many different personalities present to the varying work styles. Internships also give you a chance to pick up on techniques that you would have had to otherwise learn through trial and error later in your career. As an intern, you aren’t expected to know everything. You are there to learn and take it from me. If you mess up, it is okay. 

 4. Go Out for Lunch with your Contacts.

Either during the time of your internship or afterward, be sure to ask members of your team, your supervisors, and others within the company if they have any time within their day for a coffee run or lunch break with you. People are more than happy to talk about their path to success, so come prepared with questions and conversation kick-starters. If you ever forget the prepared questions, be real. You can never go wrong talking about the food or one’s goals. The key to remember is that each of us chose a different path to reach the level of success we’ve been able to reach, so make it your personal mission to reach out to as many people as possible so that you can learn from their experiences.

5. Reflect on Your Experience. (Maybe even write a blog post about it!) 

I’ve always embraced the idea of writing everything down, so if there was ever another witness needed, I’d have my notebook. It is encouraged to meet with your supervisor throughout the internship to receive feedback on your work. This allows you to grow and it challenges your usual way of doing things. It is always best to build some form of mental and emotional toughness before reaching out for feedback, though, because it may not always be what you want to hear, but that’s okay. Always take what you need from the conversation, apply it, and go be better. 

Attaining an internship is an amazing opportunity to see what does and does not work for you in your career path. It is important to learn about the company you work for and to build upon every connection you make, but you must also remember to always be yourself. Your internship experience will prove to be far more worthwhile and beneficial if you be who you truly are and believe in your voice, in all rooms. Remember to always embrace the difference, stay true to who you are, and know that this is just the beginning for you! 

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