Save Yourself the Headache: Lessons I Learned While Interning in SF (Part 1)

So, let me start off by saying crying in the back of a Lyft wasn’t exactly how I imagined the first day of my internship going. 

I woke up early (I’m talking 5:30am) and got ready for work, making sure to grab the necessities, but particularly my headphones and charger. I made it to my train and got to San Francisco with no drama. That’s when things started going to sh*t. I get on the bus and of course, my Clipper hadn’t loaded so there goes that loud buzzing sound. It’s meant to indicate low balance but all I could think was oh my god everyone heard and they think I’m broke. Which, duh, I am. I’m a college student but I didn’t need a public announcement. It hurt a little more given the fact I did pay for the monthly pass. So, I stand there inside the bus, bodies to my left and to my right, with my heart racing with the fear that some fare inspector was going to come and toss me out. I thankfully made it to my stop unscathed and proceed to wait for a shuttle that I ultimately never found. Que me calling a Lyft that got canceled three times (they canceled, one of which I lowkey begged him to cancel) because yeah, I was lost and panicking. Oh, did I mention my phone died mid-order and I asked the security officer at Chase bank to charge my phone, voice quivering with barely held back tears??

So there I am, in the back seat of a Lyft, hot tears flowing down my cheeks because I was exhausted and stressed and a Whole Mess. When the car rolled to a stop, my kind Lyft driver–who didn’t make a peep about my sniffles– wished me good luck and I thanked him before exiting. It wasn’t an ideal morning, but despite it all, everything turned out okay. No one made a fuss about me being late, in fact, they were understanding.

 I’m sharing my first-day story to give you a gentle reminder that it’s okay. You’re okay. Things will be fine.

I’ve learned many, many lessons throughout this internship so I’m going to drop some knowledge for you all and hopefully they resonate with some of you.  

Look Out for Future You

What does this mean? Pack the lunch (SF food is very pricey). Prepare your clothes. Make sure your earphones, transit pass, portable charger and everything that is vital to you is in your bag because you may *clears throat* wake up late. So, think ahead and save yourself the headache, sis. 

Ask the Question

Have you found yourself sitting at your desk lost AF? Well, same. And honestly, many problems could be solved by just asking the question that’s been niggling at the back of your mind. I’ve learned that lesson far too many times so here are a few questions to keep in mind when being introduced to a new project:

  1. How much time would you like me to commit to this?
  2. Is there an example I can work off of?
  3. When would you like this by?
  4. + any additional questions that may come up when you’re working on it. 

If you don’t know what you’re doing, ask. Please ask. I would be sitting at my desk nearly paralyzed in fear of asking a question because I’m already in too deep and was scared people would judge me. Don’t think like that. If you’ve thought things through and are still lost, just ask the question (s) and save yourself the headache.

Know Your Bandwidth 

After working full-time during the summer at a communications agency, I’ve learned the value of time and how quickly she goes by. Agencies run by timesheets so it’s important to be cognizant of what you’re doing and how much time you’re spending on it. Don’t say yes to a new project or assignment knowing you may leave the office early or have another deadline creeping by. It’s okay to say no because honestly, no one is going to be mad, they’ll appreciate you being transparent. 

Manage That Time (and your timesheet)

Time yourself. Give yourself a deadline and try to complete it by then. Also, it’s a good way to check if you’re spending too much time on something. Give yourself enough time to get a second pair of eyes on it before it’s forwarded to the account lead. I repeat: we are not on that 11:59 p.m. deadline, we’re talking about 24-48 hours ahead. I learned that one the hard way 🙂

Also, timesheets? Pain in the butt yes, but definitely necessary. So, update it on the regular which I mean daily (honestly even every few hours) so you’re on top of it. Set a reminder on your phone or leave a sticky note on your desktop but just remind yourself to do it. Payroll quite literally have our bag so it’s important to not piss them off 🙂 

Intern Squad C/O Summer 2019 minus two
Work The Network 

The beauty of an internship is that there will be a ton of people across workstreams you will meet. In my agency, there were people that worked in marketing, production/creative, analytics, and PR across different operating companies. There is so much to learn so schedule one-on-ones with people so you already know I opened up Outlook calendar and started sending out invitations. 

Here’s an example note I would send to people when scheduling a 30-minute one-on-one:

Hi X, 

I hope this finds you well! I’m X, the new X intern for X. I would love to schedule a one-on-one with you and learn more about you and the work you do. Please let me know whether or not this time slot works for you so I can adjust it accordingly. Thank you so much and I look forward to speaking with you! 

Best,

X

Take The Lesson and Keep it Pushin’

Unfortunately, not all of our internships are going to be the ideal experience we imagined them to be. For my communication industry people, we’re not going to dive into strategy and campaign planning from the jump. If you did, then… I have questions (like you got contact info?). Whether or not your experience was stellar, it’s important to take the wins where you can. Did you meet new people? Did you learn ways to improve your communication and organizational skills? Did you learn elements of what you want in a work environment and what you could do without? Well, then you learned. Period. Take the good and bad and just keep it pushin’.

After all, internships are meant to teach you– all the good and bad of your industry and help you grow to be your best self. 

I’m proud of what I have achieved and learned this summer. I’ve seen myself persevere, speak up and learn. I was challenged in ways I didn’t expect and I’m just going to take those lessons and move on.

Here’s to summer 2019, a summer I had my first official PR internship and a summer I won’t forget. 

I’ll be writing Part 2 so stay tuned if you wanna (I know you wanna). 😀

💛

Elsa