This summer, I worked for a large corporation for 40 hours every week, remotely, for 10 weeks. It could have easily been one of the worst and overwhelming summers of my life, but it was not.
There will always be a debate on whether working for big companies is better or worse than small start-ups. I have worked at both styles, and I grew a lot at both. But when it comes down to it, there were a few things I learned this summer that I had yet to learn elsewhere. It felt like I was preparing for my post-graduate career rather than just completing tasks for the first time.
Here are eight things my corporate internship taught me:
If They Didn’t Want You There, They Wouldn’t Have Hired You
Imposter syndrome is a hard thing to fight — especially working for a larger company. It is so easy to feel lost in the mix and like you don’t belong. But you have to remember that your manager chose you for the position for a reason. They saw something in you that showed potential. If they didn’t want an intern, then they probably would have made that clear. Go into your internship understanding that they want you there for your help, skills, and insights. Everyone on your team was an intern at some point as well.
Own Your Skills but be Willing to Learn More
I cannot count the number of things I learned this summer. For example, going into my internship, I thought I knew the basics of Adobe Photoshop. Then, I had to make GIFs. I researched on YouTube and asked a team member to show me how as well. Asking for help saved me so much time and frustration from trying to figure it out alone. As a result, my ability to learn new things on the spot took me further in my role and earned me new responsibilities.
Ask Questions — Always
I learned quickly that it’s better to ask questions sooner rather than later. The last situation anyone wants to be involved with is turning in a project with questions still unanswered. In the end, it makes it easier for everyone to ask questions earlier on. If I had a question, then I would send a quick Slack message. If my boss needed more than a simple answer to explain, then she would jump on a call with me. Hopefully, your future boss is a fan of questions like mine was.
Make a Point to Understand Your Team’s Communication Styles
I worked under a multiple-person team this summer. But, quickly, I realized that everyone’s communication styles were different. My manager had specific ways to communicate, but there were other team members with whom I would be speaking. For example, I always enjoyed sending GIFs back and forth in messages with someone on my team, but I wouldn’t do that for everyone. Some prefer simple Slack messages, some prefer email, etc. You just have to figure out the best way to communicate with everyone. If you can’t figure it out, then it never hurts to ask to be sure. You always never know which team member could be hiring in the future…
When working for a large corporation, there are a million workers (well, maybe not a million), and everyone has their tasks. My tasks were more minimal than past internships with startups because those startups needed my help in more areas. My manager this summer would give me assignments, but I wanted to prove myself in my role, so I took the initiative to develop new projects. As a social media intern, I did weekly trend reports and competitive analyses against other companies. It shows proactiveness when you pitch projects you think would be vital to the team.
Create a Tracking Doc
As an intern, I had a mentor to help me through my internship. I adored her and our weekly conversations, and one of the biggest things she encouraged me to do was create a “tracking doc.” This tracking document helped me keep up with my weekly tasks, the questions I would ask my manager, and how we solved them. This helped me summarize my internship overall and provided diverse and unique points on my resume regarding what I accomplished in my internship.
Network, Network, and Network
One of the best parts of my internship this summer was connecting with different people throughout the company. Networking is something that you can tackle yourself, or if you are lucky like I was, your manager will help set up meetings. The meetings were usually 30 minutes so I would research them ahead of time, create questions, and guide our discussions through different topics. Sometimes the sessions felt like interviews, but the conversation can be very memorable when you can connect with someone. I always followed up my networking meetings with a LinkedIn request and a thank you note.
Be Open to Giving and Receiving Feedback
The biggest hurdle I had to overcome — and something I struggled with at every internship so far — is allowing myself to receive feedback. I have always been so terrified of feedback that I never received good or bad feedback. But I would never grow if I did that. Despite my fears, my manager being honest and open about how important feedback is helped me during my internship. After all, it’s about reframing your mindset to see it as a chance to improve. If a manager cares enough to take the time to curate things (respectfully) that they would like to see you improve on, then you owe it to them to listen. The street does go both ways. For example, my manager wanted me to also give her feedback as it is a great way to communicate expectations for each other. Through this process of learning to give feedback, it helped change my mindset about receiving it.
The company I worked for has over 22,000 employees worldwide. It can be easy to feel like you aren’t making any impact, but you have to change your perspective. The work I did this summer did end up helping at different points, and because of my progress, I got to come back for an extended internship period for the Fall!
My corporate internship was one of the best experiences I could have endured during college. However, I often found myself tired, worn out, and mentally exhausted working remotely from a little studio-sized apartment in New York. But I can’t imagine if I would have never submitted my application. Taking a chance on applying was the best thing to happen to me, and the worst thing anyone could do when it comes to a corporate internship is not to try. People will choose not to apply because they think they are not qualified enough, or when they do get it, not be proactive because they feel like they don’t matter. Everything we do matters, whether you are one employee of 20 or one of 22,000. It’s all about mindset and choosing to learn from each, and every experience life wants to throw at you!