Summer is here, and for some people that means endless days at the beach, soaking up the sun and catching waves. For others, it means SUMMER INTERNSHIPS!!!!!!! While I definitely miss my care-free high school summer adventures, I actually love interning. Sure, waking up at 5AM and commuting back and forth from Manhattan each day isn't necessarily ideal, but interning is, in my opinion, the absolute BEST way to learn about yourself, to understand your skills, and to transition into the "real world" (*shudders*).
Whether you're interning at the company of your dreams or stepping out of your comfort zone and into a new industry, there is no denying the value of an internship. Some might see it as a way to simply fill up your resume, but there are countless ways to turn your internship into an incredible educational experience. It's all up to you!
Last summer, I interned at CHANEL in the Client Relationship Management & Digital Marketing departments. I had such a great experience, so I returned back to CHANEL for this summer! This time around, however, I am interning in the Ecommerce Operations department. These two roles are vastly different. For one, I'm working with a totally new team in the Fragrance & Beauty side of the business (last summer I worked in the Fashion department). My new role also requires a much different skill set, and I've been able to think more analytically, to work with external vendors, and to follow the path of our products from being ordered online to being received by a client. It's been an amazing summer so far, and I as this is my final summer internship, I am working hard to make the most out of my time at CHANEL. For all the first-time-interns out there, or for those who feel maybe their job is not as fulfilling as they hoped, here are some of my tips for making the most of your summer internship!
1. Don't be afraid to ask questions or make a mistake
It is easy to fixate on the things we don't know how to do, especially when we are feeling vulnerable in a new environment. But it is important to take a step back and remember: you're just an intern! You can relax, no one is expecting you to come in knowing everything about the company or being an expert on Day 1! So don't get caught up in the stress of a task, and if you don't understand something, just ask your supervisor. I was terrible at this last summer. It was my first time in a corporate office, and I was worried about appearing inexperienced, so I rarely asked questions for the first few weeks. One of the most difficult things to pick up on at CHANEL is the company lingo. Acronyms and terms were flying around in every meeting, and I often had NO CLUE what was going on or being discussed. When I finally worked up the courage to ask my supervisor to explain some terms to me, she was more than happy to help me out. (Side tip: I now keep a dictionary of commonly-used words within the company that I was previously unfamiliar with in the back of my notebook & it has made my life a lot easier!) In all of my professional and academic endeavors, I've found that I learn far more when I fail than when I succeed on the first try, and I am much more efficient when I ask questions than when I try to figure things out on my own! As Michael Jordan once said, "Don't be afraid to fail. Be afraid to not try!" Just don't make the mistake of wearing navy pants when you meant to wear black pants, because trust me, a mistake like that can't be lived down.
2. There is no task too big or too small
Don't waltz into your internship expecting to be given the responsibilities of a CEO. No matter how wonderful your boss or your team is, there's a good chance you'll still be assigned some classic intern tasks (ex: printing, scanning, stapling, or filing). But if you are given a task like this, do not despair! It doesn't mean your boss does not appreciate you or that she doesn't think your time is worth more, it's simply that you are an intern, and your job is to support your team wherever you can. Take on each task with enthusiasm, and be sure to give 110% of your effort, no matter how small the task seems! On the other hand, your boss might assign you to a task that seems too difficult or intimidating. Instead of shying away from opportunities like this, use them as a chance to be a star and impress your team! The most challenging tasks are often the best way to prove yourself, and if you pull it off, you'll definitely be a memorable intern.
3. Adjusting to a new workplace is hard... but we've all been there before!
If this is your first time interning in a corporate office or holding a real job, the first few days and weeks might be difficult. Who do I eat lunch with? Where are the bathrooms? How does the copy machine work? It can be overwhelming to enter a new company culture, but remember that every single person at your office was new to the company at one time, so they know how you feel! Don't be afraid to go out on a limb and ask a coworker to grab lunch. Chances are, she probably wants to get away from her desk for an hour too, and what better excuse to have than taking an intern out to lunch? Asking someone to show you how the coffee machine works or to point out the location of the closest printer is an easy way to start a conversation with a stranger, which can turn into a new friendship! As the weeks go on, you'll begin to adjust, and your workplace might even start to feel like a second home.
4. Remember everyone you meet, and meet everyone you can!
CHANEL is a huge company, and all of the employees come from diverse professional backgrounds. I've met people who've worked in finance, tech, advertising, and even hospitality prior to joining CHANEL. With each person I meet, I make sure to remember one unique thing about them, whether it be a funny story they tell me, a piece of advice they share, or something as simple as where they went to college. This tactic helps me memorize their names, and it serves as an go-to conversation topic for the next time I run into them while grabbing coffee. Forming a relationship with your coworkers can lead to more than just friendships; it can help you get the job of your dreams right out of college or five years down the road! With each person you meet, you've unlocked an opportunity to expand your network and increase your own professional potential. So be sure to start up those conversations with your coworkers, connect on LinkedIn, and stay in touch after the summer is over. You never know where a connection might lead you!
5. Reach out to people outside of your department
Don't feel limited to only connect with the people you interact with on a daily basis. A cool thing about being an intern is that (at most companies) pretty much any employee is willing to chat with you. So if you hear about an interesting project going out outside of your department or know about a particularly dynamic employee that you don't get to work with, don't be afraid to send an email asking to schedule a coffee chat, or as we call them at CHANEL, a "touch base." You'll be surprised how eager most employees are to meet with interns (think about it, we are the future!) and to share their stories of how they ended up in their current roles. For example, I recently sat in on a meeting with my supervisor that dealt with inventory management. The process of inventory planning is something I've always been curious about, but I never had a chance to learn about it firsthand. After the meeting, I emailed the inventory planner and asked if she'd meet up with me quickly to tell me more about her role. She was so excited to chat with me (apparently interns aren't typically interested in her role) and she ended up spending an hour showing me what her work is like and sharing some of the most valuable career advice I've received to date!
Enjoy every minute of your internship, because in a blink of an eye, we'll be the employees overseeing summer interns!!! Most importantly, remember to relax, and be sure to take advantage of any perks your company gives you (you better believe I'm stocking up on bottles of No. 5 L'eau before this summer is over).