Surprising Lessons From the Work World

Surprising Lessons From the Work World

Here's what you should know about the professional world before starting your D.C. internship

When you have been a student for most of your life, entering the workforce can be incredibly daunting. Internships are a great opportunity to glimpse into the work world and my internship experiences throughout college have been eye-opening. Here are a few things I have learned about the working world:

1. Always Ask Questions

Asking questions is what I have struggled with the most. When I first started interning, I did not want to bother my supervisor and I felt that I was wasting their time by asking clarifying questions on industry jargon and business processes. Supervisors love it when interns take initiative, so try to solve the issue on your own if you can. But for some issues, asking your supervisor is the quickest and easiest way to solve a problem. I have wasted several hours doing a task incorrectly to realize that if I had asked my supervisor, I could’ve saved myself time and stress. Moral of the story: your supervisor is your greatest resource!

2. Take Initiative

Employers like someone who can take initiative. If you see an area where your supervisor or department needs help, ask your supervisor if you can become involved with that project. If you have something you are passionate about that you are not doing in your current role, don’t be afraid to ask. Often, my supervisors have been very receptive to me taking on new projects, especially if they feel that I am bringing more value to the organization.

Remember that an internship is a learning experience and what you put in is what you get out.

Mythea Mazzola

3. You May Have to Adjust Your Writing Style

Academic writing is vastly different than the writing you may have to do for your internship. In my internships, I created digital content (such as blogs and social media posts), wrote grant applications and sent plenty of emails. For all of these activities, I have had to focus on making my writing more concise. With emails, I always recommend starting off with a “I hope you are doing well” or a “How are you?” After that, try to get to the point quickly. Many of your colleagues are busy people and they do not want to read through fluff and sort through a couple paragraphs to understand what you are trying to say.

4. Put Yourself Out There

When you enter the working world, you will meet all kinds of new people. In D.C., you will meet people from all over the country and all across the ideological spectrum. In addition to this, you will likely  be one of the youngest people at the organization and it can be intimidating to talk with people and try to make friends. What makes an internship truly memorable is the relationships that you build. Don’t be afraid to chat with people and be friendly. Try to get together with people outside of work for coffee or brunch on a weekend. You would be surprised with how receptive people will be!

Before starting your first or next internship, I highly recommend thinking about what you are hoping to get out of the experience. This will make it much easier to take initiative, put yourself out there and ask questions when necessary. Remember that an internship is a learning experience and what you put in is what you get out. Even if you’re not in your dream role, there are many valuable lessons to be taken away from any internship.

Mythea Mazzola, Washington Center Student Blogger, Fall 2019

Mythea Mazzola is a student at the University of Rochester where she double majors in Political Science and Business. She is a Fall 2019 intern at the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC), a policy and advocacy organization that advances affordable housing access, strengthens the Community Reinvestment Act, increases home ownership and addresses other related issues.