How to Make the Most of an Internship

Woman with thought bubble saying future written on blackboard

I was woefully ignorant about the business world when I switched my major from Pre-Pharmacy to Marketing. If someone asked me about getting an internship, I would have looked at them in confusion. I had no idea what an internship even was.

My experience

My university requires business students to do an internship in order to graduate. I’ve come to consider this a blessing. While applying and interviewing for an internship made me about as comfortable as wearing a parka during the summer, I ended up landing a great one.

As a Strategic Marketing intern at Erie Insurance, I’ve gained a lot of real world experience. I’ve gotten to work on a variety of projects and even written a few articles for this website. One of my favorite parts about my internship is that I’ve gotten to do so many different things, which allowed me to create a nice portfolio.

What I’ve learned

Doing an internship helped open my eyes to marketing. I previously had a fairly narrow view about what marketers did. (It’s like advertising, right?) There is a lot more to it.

There’s also a difference between your internship and that minimum-wage job you’ve had for three years. Here’s what I’ve learned:

  • Dress to impress. They say dress for the job you want, not the job you have. Professional dress is a must in the corporate world, so upgrade your T-shirt and shorts wardrobe.
  • Realize there’s a difference between school and work. I was initially surprised by how much I hadn’t been taught in my classes. Ironically, most of the work I regularly do revolves around the Internet and social media—two areas that haven’t quite managed to get into college curriculums. Thankfully, I learned the ropes quickly enough and have even had a hand in planning out our social media content.
  • Know that hard work will be noticed. While much of the work I’ve done can be considered “behind the scenes,” I take pride in knowing that my contributions have been significant in maintaining some pretty high-level projects. (This website’s extensive archive of articles and the social media analysis? You’re welcome.) I’ve received progressively more complex and important assignments the longer I’ve been here.
  • Learn the lingo. Words like SEO, content marketing and brand recognition are forever imprinted in my memory. Better yet, I know what they mean, how they’re utilized and, most importantly, how they fit into the overall marketing plan. It’s important to pick up on commonly used terms because there’s nothing more embarrassing than having a blank look on your face when your boss’s boss’s boss asks you a question. (Not that I would know that feeling).
  • Get comfortable asking questions. I would have been a spreadsheet away from a nervous breakdown if I hadn’t. Coworkers would rather take your questions, even if they can’t answer them immediately. It shows you’re being proactive and care about getting the job done right, which goes back to my comment about hard work getting noticed.

Adios internship, hello real world

Having this internship helped me gain a better idea of what I want to do after graduation. I can easily see myself working in event planning, communications or PR down the road. I have no doubt that I’m more prepared for my future career (whatever that may be) thanks to my internship.

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