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Navigating corporate America as an intern

By Kendra Paro, Director of Business Affairs

Trying to equate past work experience to working in “corporate America” seemed like a daunting task. Previously, I had only worked jobs dealing with children and had no office experience –I had no idea how to navigate my way around a fortune 200 company for a whole summer. Here are a few things I’ve learned throughout my time at a big company:

Ask a lot of questions. In meetings, to your coworkers, in any situation you can, ask questions. It shows that you’re paying attention, eager to learn more and it helps you understand the way things at the company work.

Bring a pen and paper! If you don’t already, always keep a notebook in tow and write down as much as you can. You can reference something someone said, write down questions to ask later and keep yourself more organized. Try to take notes in a respectful way when someone is telling you something, but be sure to take notes that you’ll be able to understand later (or why take them at all?)

Build relationships. Just simply talking to other employees and finding things in common can go a long way. If you’re searching for a full-time position when you’re an intern, you want as many people as possible to vouch for you if warranted–even if it’s just to say that you’re an enjoyable person to be work with. Even if you do a great job and get amazing work done, it won’t matter unless the people you work with like and remember you.

Work hard. Even if in the end you did something wrong but it was noticed that you worked as hard as you could to get there, it will look positive. Don’t be on your phone throughout the day and don’t slack on your duties. People notice when you aren’t doing what you’re supposed to be, and one bad interaction can last.

Fake it ‘til you make it. Let’s face it–in every job, there are going to be times when you have no idea what’s going on. I had many instances when meeting with high level employees or attending important meetings where clear expectations were not readily laid out. By simply observing people around you and acting like you know what you are doing, it can help others take you seriously as a professional instead of just an intern.

When you’re in a new environment surrounding by new people, it can be tough to navigate situations perfectly. Being in a big office as an intern might seem like you’re the lowest on the totem pole (which is true), but it’s not the worst thing in the world. Being an intern is a great excuse to not know what’s going on—and that’s totally okay. Use your status as an intern to learn as much as you can, ask hundreds of questions and be a little clueless at times.

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