Hello! If you read my posts over the middle of the year, you might know that I interned as a newspaper journalist for six months. I’m safely back in my cocoon at school now, but I cobbled together a list of things that helped a lot in work—and hopefully might be a bit useful if you’re an intern too!
This isn’t a definitive guide; I can’t tell you how to become Intern of the Year or anything because I don’t have the qualifications. But I did live to tell the tale, which might be reassuring to you (because I set the bar pretty low).
So first of all…
Get a (cute) schedule book.
A schedule book can be a real lifesaver, especially if you’re perpetually swamped with work. All my assignments, appointments and random doodles all go in here, so it’s a practical and personal space for me. Don’t get too small a book; a medium-sized one will do nicely as a home for all your notes and schedules
It’s important for me to get something cute because I use it everyday. So this year I got a Rilakkuma schedule bookIt’s full of illustrations and handy-but-not-so-handy info (like Japanese train maps and a dessert calorie table) which keep me looking forward to turning the pages each week.
This is the design on the inside!
Because mistakes are the stuff of nightmares. As a journalist making an error meant it was seen by the entire country, so I obviously wasn’t keen on them. But being careful is the same in every job—watch out for everything and don’t be afraid to ask (is what I would’ve told myself when I first started if I’d known better).
I’d rather not use that “everybody makes mistakes” cliche because that always gets to me, as if you’re already expected to do something wrong. Just be careful, and don’t compromise on instructions! But if—strictly if—you do happen to make a mistake, tell yourself it can be fixed. Don’t panic. Clear head. There you goCome find me and we’ll share some cookies and talk. I had lots of run-ins with mistakes myself.
Know what you’re panicking about before you panic.
Spare yourself the stress and shame if you have the chance! If something feels wrong, get to the bottom of it before taking action. It could be something salvageable, or not the big deal you thought it was at all. I’m a naturally anxious person, and there were lots of times I got too hasty and asked the supervisors something totally unnecessary. It saves a lot of trouble if you can swoop in on a potential mishap and nip in the bud before it grows.
Write down everything.
Do this is in aforementioned schedule book, or on post-it notes, notepads, and anywhere else that you’d notice easily (or your hand maybe?) It helps so much when you have everything on hand so that when you need to recall something you just need to whip out wherever you’ve written it down. After that, do yourself a favour and buy some nice sticky tabs to bookmark your pages.
The best way I found to stay organised was to keep a tidy to-do list for each day! If I recorded everything and their specifics down, I didn’t have to worry as much about missing something out.
Stick reminders and notes around your desk space.
The hefty memo pad I brought with me at the beginning got depleted drastically by the end, because I practically wallpapered my desk with all sorts of notes. Apart from being super useful, putting up your own random doodles lets your workspace feel a little more you. To-do lists, tips, drawings and my favourite Bible verses all went up around me—this was as decorative as I could get.
For the first half of my internship I had a desk in front of the wall where no one could creep up behind without me knowing. Even though it was a relatively tiny desk, I loved sitting at my little safe haven with the other internsBut then there had to be a renovation right at my desk area…and I was moved to where all the supervisors sat at. It was unnerving being in Supe Island (as I called it) every day, but I did get a huge desk out of it.
Make the most of your staff perks.
The communal food table always had a ready supply of food, from media gifts to event souvenirs to sample products from restaurants. I probably ate more exotic food in those six months than I did before (seriously, I never know foie gras on pizza was a thing). It took me a while before I dared to take so much as a tiny cookie, but I soon cosied up to it and practically lived off cake samples on busy days when I couldn’t have lunch.
If there’re any incentives in the office at all, I say use them all you can! But of course do it within reason—don’t snaffle the whole pizza home for your household unless they say you can. (Once there was almost a whole cake left over at the end of the day, and my boss told me to just bring it home)
Make as many friends as you can.
This works especially well when you have fellow interns in the office. For the first few months there were several other interns, and without them I couldn’t have settled into my job as well as I did. Having other people my age was a huge comfort because no one else understood what it was like to be a callow, unqualified corporate baby.
But I know there aren’t always other interns to share your burdens with (my own friends started earlier and left two months before I did). In that case, your safest bet is to be friendly to everyone
Dress your best.
By your best, I mean the way you feel you look great in. During my time as an intern I actually had a lot of fun coming to work in different outfits that I usually wouldn’t wear in school. It was basically a six-month long phase of skirts and dresses because school has always been a shorts fest for me.
This was when I started taking photos of my outfits everyday as a record, and posted them daily on my Japanese blog. In the beginning I was really paranoid about dressing appropriately and even had the occasional blazer—it was funny to see how over the months my outfits became less and less formal (and the skirts grew shorter).
Choosing what you wear each day can make you feel a little more like yourself in the office, and give you some creativity to play with. But freedom of attire does depend on the kind of company you work at—I do know friends who had to go to work in prescribed formal wear, so at any rate dress as comfortably as you can! It’s useful for those long hours.
Enjoy the little moments.
Chances are work won’t leave you with much time for yourself, or when you do it still sticks around your head even out of the office. Every day I looked forward to going home and having dinner made by my mom, and that was the main thing that kept me going for six months without (much of) a meltdown.
Of course once in a while I had to go out for assignments at night, and for six months I worked overtime for every single day. So what do you when you just need a break? Steal pockets of time for yourself, like during your lunch break or even those five minutes you space out for at your desk.
Even when I became the only intern left and lost my lunch buddies, I enjoyed eating alone in the canteen just as much—I’d eat my lunch and read a book and have a good one hour to myselfIt’s not about the time you’re given but what you make of your time!
Whether you’re having a great time or just counting down to that last day, it’s a good idea to remember that this internship is an opportunity you might not get again. Even if you don’t like your job, you can walk away knowing you stuck it out and what you don’t want to do in the future. And if you love it, yay!
If you have any tips of your own, please share them with me! I probably need them for the next internship.