Be proactive to make the most of your internship

Walking into the lobby of Time Inc. on the first day of my internship was a nerve-wracking experience. Even the giant screens behind the front desk, which project feel-good pop culture images on a loop, ranging from the royal wedding to Ellen DeGeneres’s Oscar selfie, didn’t provide much comfort. As a rising sophomore and first time intern, it was intimidating traipsing into intern orientation among nearly 100 other interns who were experienced rising juniors and seniors. But I didn’t want to show how nervous I was, so I pushed my self-doubt to the back of my mind and I pretended that walking into the company that publishes Time, People and Sports Illustrated magazines was just as comfortable as walking into the Marvin Center.

The anxiety that comes with starting your first internship is not knowing what to expect, especially since internship job descriptions don’t always match up to the actual experience. Most internships I’d heard about involved sitting around all day and rarely getting to work on significant projects. Although I would’ve been thankful for gaining exposure to the media business regardless, I didn’t want to waste an internship at Time Inc. getting coffee. But I’ve learned that interning relies on what you make of it, not on how much or how little your managers give you.

After a month, I’ve learned how to take advantage of working at a place like Time Inc., regardless of whether or not I have an assignment to complete. From researching venues for a Grammy’s party to updating an ongoing list of the hottest restaurants in New York, I usually have at least one interesting project to work on every day. But like most internships, some days are more exciting than others. When you find yourself staring at the clock, be proactive and make the most out of your internship by networking.

Take every task, even the mundane ones, and complete it with enthusiasm. Busy work may not be the most invigorating, but it can be beneficial. I only wish I’d had my newfound box packing skills in May when I was moving out of my residence hall. And the added bonus is knowing that the boxes I assemble are going to places like the Food and Wine Classic in Aspen, a glamorous weekend featuring some of the hottest names in the culinary world, or Essence Magazine’s flagship festival in New Orleans, where Diana Ross, John Legend and Solange are featured performers. In even the most tedious of tasks, there are benefits.

But admittedly there are slow days when even busy work is scarce. At first I really didn’t know what to do with myself on these days, but I knew I couldn’t let any moment of my experience at Time Inc. go to waste. Lately I’ve been using the slow days to meet as many people as I can. Even though I’ve enjoyed working in event planning, the editorial department is where I see myself in the future. Through LinkedIn and various events that Time Inc. hosts for interns, like an executive panel with editorial heavyweights from Time, People and Essence magazines, I’ve met several people who work in the editorial division. It turns out that even the people in high management positions are usually happy to grab a quick coffee when they can. I never imagined the editorial director of Time Magazine would have a free 30 minutes for me, but because I asked, he fit me into his schedule. From him, I was able to learn about how he collaborates with the editorial teams of Time Inc.’s other publications as well as the relationship between Time’s print and digital content.

Don’t be afraid to reach out to your bosses or anyone else in the company who you’d like to meet – they were interns once, too. I’ve found that the more I do it, the easier it gets, and the payoff of having that connection going forward is worth the fear of them saying no. I’ve also found that pursuing these connections has made me feel less out of place among the more experienced interns.

Even in my first few weeks as an intern at Time Inc., I can see how much I’ve grown because I’ve pushed myself to make the most out of this experience. Find ways to productively utilize your down time and meet people, even when it’s outside of your comfort zone. And use your internship as a pathway to learn valuable skills and build a future career, rather than just checking off a box on your resume.

Natalie Prieb, a sophomore majoring in english and creative writing, is a Hatchet opinions writer.

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