When I got my first internship, I truly felt like I had made it. I was a bored, average student turned mature working woman. During the summer of 2016, right after high school, I was employed as a project management intern at Oasis Centre des Femmes, a centre for french-speaking women facing abuse and/or other challenges. It was just two months of work but in that time, I learned a lot more about the working world than I ever could in a classroom. Here are five lessons I gained from the experience.
1. Enthusiasm Is Key
I used to love interviews because it was my time to shine and prove myself (now, after so many: not so much). During my interview for Oasis, I was nervous but eventually relaxed and impressed the employers with my energy. I am passionate about feminism and social issues, and didn’t hold back from expressing my views on current issues. That paid off because a few weeks later, I got the job.
2. Do and Learn Everything
Although, my title was “project management intern”, I did a little bit of everything that summer. I ran the front desk, planned events, made posters, assisted in workshops and even spent a whole day cleaning out somebody’s office. Whenever an opportunity came up, I took it. Fear will tell you to stick to what you know but you’ll never learn unless you step out of your comfort zone. Plus, employers will respect you for being so adaptable.
3. Criticism is Not Personal
I’m unfortunately not someone who is thick-skinned so criticism of my work is enough to send me down a spiral of self-doubt. That’s what happened when I’m one of my co-workers shared that she was confused by one of my ideas and thought I could do better. I was embarrassed and a little annoyed, however, it was much needed feedback. Revising my idea made it stronger and the new version received a better reaction.
4. Learn From Failure
The first time I was in charge of an event, nobody showed up. It was our monthly community movie night and the subject matter of the movie I had chosen seemed to have turned our regular guests away. Instead of wallowing and complaining, I decided the accept this temporary failure and learn from it. Next month, with a different movie choice, over 20 guests showed. (The movie I chose was Tomboy, and honestly, it’s a pretty good movie. I recommend it.)
5. You’re in Charge of the Conclusion
A more personal lesson I learned: a desk job is not for me. While I did enjoy my time at Oasis, I clearly remember looking at my older coworkers and thinking: “I can’t believe they have to do this every day for the rest of the year.” I believe that’s one benefit of interning: you get to sample a job and see whether you like it or not; which parts of it work for you and which parts you would rather never do again. Either way, how you end your internship and grow from it is your choice.
While my time after this internship was spent on applying to more jobs and securing other internships, I’m still grateful for the opportunity I got to kick-start my career. Internships are perfect for students to gain work experience, but they’re only helpful if you take advantage of all they have to offer.