Being an intern is a unique position, especially at Earn Spend Live. You’re not expected to know everything because, of course, you’re simply there to learn—so mess-ups are going to happen, and honestly you should welcome them with open arms. For me, I basically just got to sit back and soak up the knowledge of all these highly intelligent people around me (so I’d say I got the better deal here). They’ve pushed me for the past four(ish) months to be better than I thought I could be and have given me the confidence to put myself out there and (basically) not give a shit what people think.
Today, on my last day as the intern, I want to pass on the things I wish I’d known when I walked into the crazy ESL world (or really any professional environment) so that you, the new intern, will be an even bigger girl boss than I was. I’ve pulled from the wisdom of others, which is how I got to where I am today — so here’s how I tackled (as well as how I wish I’d tackled some things) my internship—with a few little sweet sentiments thrown in along the way.
Step One: Let Go
I remember when I first started at ESL, I was so worried that I wasn’t going to be good enough. I’d only really written in an academic setting, so my writing “voice” was nowhere near the conversational and light-hearted tone you’re reading today. I was actually so worried to show them any of my writing for fear that they would all hate it and I would lose my job (which I know now would never happen, it’s just an irrational fear). I kept my very first article from them for at least three weeks, reviewing it every night to make sure that it was perfect—but, honestly, I realized nothing is ever going to be perfect.
The day I finally let go of my work and allowed room for improvement was when this internship took off. Now, looking back on the summer, I’ve changed in so many positive ways, and actually become the go-getting, confident person I’ve always wanted to be — and I have ESL to thank for that.
I think that’s the most important piece of advice I would give not only the next intern, but anyone who’s approaching a new situation or entering into a new job: Let yourself be open to changing, because none of us are flawless. Allow yourself to be wrong, and own your mistakes so that you can learn from them. That’s been the most beneficial thing for me these past few months, just really being willing to try any idea and work with any layout or subject. The more you diversify, the better you’ll be in your field—so whether you’re a writer, doctor, lawyer, artist, or dogwalker, be content with not knowing everything.
Step Two: Show Them What You’ve Got
One thing that I, unintentionally, did when I started working here was shocking my bosses with how quickly I got things done and how willing I was to do literally anything and everything they threw at me. I didn’t know this at the time, but I was building a foundation of dependability and responsibility that would serve me well when I had ideas of my own that I wanted to explore.
We had a meeting one afternoon and we were all supposed to come in with ideas of our own to contribute. I guess no one really expected me to have any ideas (or rather, voice them), so when I opened my mouth and started speaking out, everyone in the room looked pretty amazed. I gained so much respect from my co-workers all because I took a little bit of my time to think about how to better the company—and then built up the nerve to share.
I would recommend always trying to do things that benefit the company that you work for as a whole, not just yourself. Now, I’m not saying that you should become a slave to your desk and sacrifice everything else in your life, but keep in mind that you have a good job and you need to go above and beyond to keep it. Think about it: If the business isn’t generating money, then you’re out of work—which means no money or work experience for you.
Step Three: Plan, Plan, Plan
The biggest problem I had when I first started working was my time management. There was simply too much to do and too little time to get it done—granted, I would spend hours thinking about how much I had to do when I could’ve actually been doing it. But, if you’re like me, you’re going to need some sort of system to keep yourself accountable and on track. For me, I used my planner and planned out which articles I was going to write and edit each day. This really helped me because then when I sat down at my desk every morning I didn’t feel like I had seven or eight articles looming over me; I just took things one step at a time.
Organization is something I wish I’d had in the beginning because then I wouldn’t have felt so overwhelmed when the work starting piling up. I’ve always been one of those people who could usually remember what I had to do and if I forgot something I could just wing it — but, well, you can’t really do that in business when people are counting on you.
So, get a system and stick to it—whether that’s with the help of a planner or notebook or even sticky notes stuck to your computer. This way not only will you stay on task but you’ll feel a hell of a lot better when you’ve accomplished everything you set out to do in a day.
Step Four: Werk it
The first time I edited for Alot Health, which is another owned and operated site of Inuvo, I was full of confidence because I’d already been editing for Earn Spend Live the first month of my internship. Another piece of advice I would give you: Don’t get a big head because most of the time you’re not as great as you think you are. So, I submitted my first edits on the health articles and about a day later I got an email from my editor saying he wanted to have a meeting to further discuss his expectations (yikes!). The next day we sat down and reviewed the google doc, where he’d color-coded all the mistakes I’d made—and trust me, there were plenty.
While that experience terrified me, it was the first time I realized I was actually going to have to bust my butt if I wanted to be really good at something (aka editing). So for the rest of that week I researched common grammar errors and studied up on things like em dashes and hyphens so that next time I would be ready—and when the next batch of articles rolled in, I was.
Step Five: Leave Your Mark
You want to be someone who’s unforgettable, right? If the answer is yes (and it should be), then you’ve got to get creative and start, make, write, or build something that’s going to last longer than your time with the company you’re interning for. For me, that’s going to be this little series—that’s going to be fabulous so everyone stay tuned—and my other series, where I traveled across the South to interview all different kinds of successful women (coming soon, stay tuned). Both of these projects will continue on even when I’m gone, and will be something that I can proudly show anyone for years to come.
The key to being a bad-ass (specifically a bad-ass intern) is to do all the things that people your age wouldn’t. So, I chose to sit at a desk all summer surrounded by people who are at least five years older than me, instead of lying by the pool or spending my time at the lake. I’m thinking of creative articles and brainstorming revenue ideas—and I don’t think many other 18-year-olds can say the same thing.
The goal as an intern is to impact the company just as much as they’ve impacted you (which I’m not sure is even possible in my case, but I’m trying my hardest*).
*Editor’s note, she succeeded.
Step Six: Pass the Torch
My time here has finally come to an end, and it flew by way too quickly (as most great things do). I’m a bit nostalgic about the whole situation because I’ve really grown to love this place and the people in it. My last pieces of advice for the next intern are to always listen to Elise (and her grammar corrections), always seek out monetary opportunities for Meleah, don’t put spaces between your em dashes for JP, be prepared to listen to some pretty weird, off-topic topics in morning meetings (and be prepared to actually have to talk during them), and get to know everyone on the team as best as you can.
I wish I had more time here, but college is calling and my parents are itching to get me out of the house and into the dorms. So, new intern, be fierce, love what you do, and get ready for the best internship of your life.