Internship

After writing my previous blog post, I was inspired to write another post about internships. Dave Olson, my direct supervisor a.k.a HootSuite VP of Community, called me a super intern. I don’t know what I did exactly to get that honorable title, but I I just want to share with you my thoughts about internships and what I think makes up a super intern. 

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When I started interning at HootSuite in September, my parents were not pleased. They did not understand why I would work full time for free and why is the company being so cheap. They have no clue what HootSuite was, but had no choice but to support my decision. Working as an unpaid intern is difficult. There are so many things you have to sacrifice.

  • The most obvious one is of course money. You have to adjust your lifestyle to fit this and if money is a huge concern for you right now, then don’t get into unpaid internship. For me, fortunately, money is not the biggest drive and though it’s nice to earn some money, I felt like I was still lacking a lot of experience and need to gain them first before I deserve to earn. 
  • Time. Working as an intern is not a waste of time. It gives you a hands on experience that you cannot get as a student. 
  • Ego. My friends were all excited and congratulated me for the position, but when they found out that it’s unpaid, they were stunned out. 

    People have different opinions about internships. Let them be. What is most important is what you think about internship and what you are hoping to get out of it. For me, I often compare internship to school. I pay so much money to education institutions like SFU in the hope of getting some knowledge. That’s the same thing as internship, but the most wonderful thing is, you don’t have to pay. You pay with your time, but you do that with school too. I always think of internship as a free education of which I get to learn things first hand and I get to practice in the real world. For me, that’s a much better deal than listening about theories in class. I’m not saying a degree is not important. It definitely is, but internship should be thought as a diploma. It helps you to succeed down the road. 

    I have worked with a few other interns and they came from various backgrounds and even from different continents. Some of them were there because they love the tool, but some were just looking for another experience to put under their belt. For me, it was both and thus, it was easy for me to stand out and show my passion. 

    That’s my number one tip if you want to be a super intern. Show your passion. Be genuine and passionate. I have showed my interests in social media and design. I have also clearly expressed my interest in jumping into marketing. Your supervisor and coworkers would be more than happy to mentor and give you tasks in things that you are more interested in. They know you are there to grow and they would do whatever they can to make sure you grow in the area of your interest.

    During my the first few months of my internship, I always have questions in my mind: Will I get hired? Will they just let me go when the contract ends? 

    Let me tell you right now, get those questions out of your mind. Yes, they help to remind you to work harder, but to be a super intern you have to already know that in the back of your head and you don’t need a reminder.

    Consider yourself as a full-time employee even though you’re not. Live and breath the company as if you are a F/T employee and you will be one just in time. Step up to the plate whenever you can, assist your coworkers, receive and give critical feedback with a big heart and open mind, respect your coworkers, and show your leadership attributes. In summary, act as one and you will be treated as one.

    Do everything with a big smile on your face and show enthusiasm. You are there to learn and as boring as the task might be, it is up to you to make the best out of it. About a month ago, Dave broke his foot and had trouble walking around the office. He was in the middle of interviewing someone when he asked me to get him a cup of coffee. It was his first time asking me to get him something in the six months that I was there. I wasn’t offended by it at all, instead I was excited. Yes, I’m weird. Haha. No, I was excited because I finally got to learn how to use the coffee machine. I don’t drink coffee so I had no idea how to operate the machine, but I do now! 

    Make allies. Your coworkers are remarkable human beings. Take the first step to introduce yourself to them and ask them to go for lunch with you. Find out what they do in the company and get to know them. Its great in a long term, not only that you get to know them which will make it easier to work together, and if you don’t end up working there, you still have an insider. They can let you know if there’s future opportunities, or they will most likely be happy to refer you to their networks.

    This internship has been the most amazing work experience I ever had. I have previously worked at SFU Career Services (first paid job ever!), 2010 Winter Olympics Broadcasting Services, and Port Moody Arts Centre. They were all paid work, but I did not like what I was doing. I was not passionate about the company or the work that I do. I was not satisfied and could not wait to leave the office and hoping the position would end soon. The opposite happened with HootSuite. I couldn’t wait to wake up every single morning and go to work. I was excited to be there.

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    A lot of people have asked me what my secret to my never-ending supply of energy and hyperness. Well, I never really thought about it. I know it’s not caffeine for sure, because I don’t drink coffee at all. I always thought it’s sugar that keeps me running, but really, I don’t have much sweets while at work. I finally realized. I was fueled by this burning passion inside me. I enjoy the work that I do, both HootSuite, Banner Bags, Point Locus, and Nothing But Nets. I can’t never get enough of them. I always have an insatiable quench of doing more of them and by doing them, I gain more energy.

    If you have the time (and you should), go read some great tips by Dave on managing and inspiring interns for employers. Read it and go find an employer that will treat you this way. I’ve heard some stories about internships = slavery and I’m sure nobody wants to be in that position. So before getting your feet in to interning for a company, do you due dilligence and do research just as you will when looking for a job. [update] I just wrote a post about my journey to becoming where I am today. You can read it here.

    “Watch and you’ll see someday I’ll be part of your world” -Ariel, Little Mermaid.

    Yes, I’m happy to announce that I am now part of the owl world as a full-time Community Coordinator after 6 months internship! Be persistent, versatile, and show a great attitude and you’re all set, my friend!

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