group photo of college honor students

My Internship: Week One

by Sarah Wilkinson, Class of ’17

I’ve been at my new internship for a week already. I say “already” like it flew by, which would be a lie. Not to say I don’t like the internship or that I’m not thankful for the opportunity, but if you’ve never worked full time, it requires a period of adjustment. I’m up by 7 and at work by 8:50 AM, and I don’t get home until 6 PM.

And I thought maintaining a full class schedule was challenging; this is a whole new ball game.

Time just seemed to creep by. Maybe it was the sun outside the window, taunting me with gorgeous weather that I couldn’t enjoy. Or maybe – more likely – it was that my supervisor still wasn’t exactly sure what my duties were going to be. I spent my first week doing odd jobs here and there, but from one project to the next, there were often lengthy gaps. My co-workers jokingly said I work too fast, and then as I continued moving through my projects at lightning speed, they laughed a little less hardily since they were the ones coming up with projects.

Another slight problem is that the marketing department is in the process of moving. That means there are boxes everywhere and no space for me. I’ve been sitting in the middle of my co-workers’ cubicle in a little rolly chair that makes my butt go numb after fifteen minutes…not ideal work conditions. But after we move next week (guess who’s responsible for a lot of that), I’m supposedly getting my own desk space. I sure hope so. Sitting in the middle of Jessica and Melissa’s cubicle, I feel like I’m encroaching on their space. They’re friendly and welcoming, but I could tell by day four that it was not ideal for them either.

So what kind of projects did I do? If I haven’t specified yet, I’m working as a writing intern for the marketing department of a high-end homebuilder in Central Virginia. I’ve done things like brainstorm content ideas for an upcoming blog they’re launching, re-write advertorials previously written by our copywriter and published once or twice before in the Richmond Times-Dispatch so they can be published again. I’ve watched Melissa create brochures and other marketing materials and watched as Jessica has worked in the backside of our company’s website. They trusted me to upload photos of new homes we built onto the website through a site called Smugmug.com, and when all that was done, I brought a book in on SEO (search engine optimization) that I’d been meaning to read and dove in; so far, I’m on page 86. I’m also reading a book from the 80’s about SPIN selling, which is more interesting than I thought it would be. On day four I went with Melissa to one of our model homes and installed some new technology, which required us to walk unprotected through a construction site.

And now, on day five, I got to do the most exciting thing of all: writing. Not just editing or reading other people’s writing, I’m finally writing my own content for our new blog! I’m taking old material, mostly advertorials that ran in the newspaper and rewriting them completely to make them relevant to right now. I’m having a lot of fun with it, and the project will surely span a few more days. I also got to run errands today, which entailed getting out of the office to buy sidewalk chalk. Awesome!

Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

  • Supervisors want you to keep yourself busy to a certain degree, especially early in the internship. If they seemed annoyed by you asking them what you should do next, quietly find a book relevant to your position and plunge in. They’ll appreciate the initiative.
  • That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask questions. It’s an internship, meaning it’s your time to learn. Make the most of it.
  • Be prepared for anything, including mean shredders that spill paper everywhere, encountering the President of the company holding a large butcher knife in the kitchen, and co-workers who like country music when you clearly do not. Internships are a great time to learn flexibility.
  • Take advantage of the resources you have. I just got an account on Lynda.com, which is tutorial site for nearly any computer program you can think of whether it be video editing or InDesign. I’m planning on making full use of this, even at home.
  • Lastly, and this is the big one: internships are a time to learn what you want out of a job. What I’m learning about myself is that maybe office life isn’t the life for me. I want to move around a little more. I want every day to be a little bit different than the previous one. Maybe marketing or writing about houses isn’t exactly my passion. I will gladly spend four months doing so, but maybe not the rest of my life.

And that’s great information to have going forward in my college career and beyond, and that means that by day five, my internship has already been well worth it.

What internship experiences – good and bad – have you had?