What I’ve Learned From My College Internship

By Brianna Pennella, Student at Ithaca College

This past spring, I spent the entire semester in Los Angeles participating in an internship-focused “abroad” program. The goal of an internship is to gain experience in a field you’re interested in, make connections, build your resume and (hopefully) have some fun along the way.

Prior to coming out here I'd only had one other internship, so this was my first truly immersed experience, and trust me, I’ve gotten a lot out of it. Here’s what I’ve learned.

You Don’t Always End Where You Start

I was hired as an intern in the television department doing entertainment PR for the company I work at. When I got the offer, it sounded great! However, once I got to the company, I quickly learned that I had a strong and clear preference for the brand marketing department of the company. It just spoke to me more and appealed more to my interests. Luckily, the company is incredibly open to interns branching out and I got a chance to work in several departments, including brands.

The only way to truly figure out what you enjoy is to try a few things out and see what fits. For me, I started one place and ended up in another, which is totally fine.

Don’t Be Afraid to Make Mistakes

Everyone feels pressure to do their best at work. This is especially true in the highly competitive intern world. However, one significant thing I took away from this experience is that it’s OK to make mistakes if you know how to learn from them. No one is perfect and no one expects you to be, especially if you’re new.

Being able to learn from mistakes and handle the fallout gracefully is an incredibly valuable skill to have. So don’t sweat the small stuff … as long as you grow from it.

Reaching Out Helps You Gain Experience

I learned that people are surprisingly open to talking about their careers, how they got there and what you can do for yourself. Reaching out to people you work with and forming valuable, real relationships is very important.

During my time with my company, I sought to speak with as many people as possible, even outside my department. One of my co-workers commented on how impressed he was that I was doing this and that he felt like none of the other interns had tried to talk to people as much as I had. This leaves a great impression and also gives you a lot of knowledge. You’d be surprised how accurate the advice of those a few steps ahead of you is. Make you to pay attention and listen to them.

Overall, what I learned most from my internship was about what I truly wanted. I was able to figure myself out, and though I don’t have it all together, I do have a better handle on it.

Facing challenges is the only way to determine what you want and how badly you want it. In any internship, you make the most out of it yourself. No one is going to hold your hand and you only take away what you’re willing to gain. Be a sponge, soak up the experience and even if you don’t love it, make the best of it. There is something to gain in every experience, and learning is the only way to grow!

Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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