Starting my freshman year at University of Oregon, 8551389454_0b2a9442d9_bone piece of advice I heard over and over again was “get an internship.” By my senior year I was well aware that I should be looking for an internship, but had yet to act on it. I worked part time at a local boutique and didn’t think it was worth quitting my job for an unpaid or low-paid internship, where I had to do all the awful jobs no one else wanted, at a company that I didn’t necessarily have an interest in working at afterwards. To say the least I had a super positive attitude about it. (Just kidding!)

After graduating I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do and searching for a real job seemed too overwhelming, so I just took on more hours at the boutique. A few months later, a family friend told me about a company that he worked with (SheerID) was looking for an intern and he thought that I should go interview for it. To be honest it scared me to even think about entering the “real-world” but I decided to interview and ended up being an intern for 3 months and was hired on after that.

Here’s what I took away from my internship at SheerID:

  1. Learn From Your Co-Workers: In most cases, your bosses and others around you have been in the industry for a while. They have invaluable insight and years of experience. You might think you know everything about the job since you’re in college or a college grad but unfortunately, there’s still a lot to learn. Listen to their wisdom and advice and be a learner who takes notes and remembers. You never know when their advice may come in handy.
  2. Work Hard to Prove Yourself: After I went in to interview I walked out of the building knowing that I was going to have to prove myself to the company. Yeah, I had a connection who recommended me for the job, but that wasn’t enough. They wanted me to prove that I was a good fit for the company and that I was going to work hard. If I wanted a full-time job at the end of the 3 months, it wasn’t going to be handed to me, I had to earn it.
  3. Do Everything With a Smile: I’ve heard a few horror stories from my friends about the awful work they had to do as an intern. Lucky for me, I did not have that same experience. Of course I was given a few jobs that were not that fun, for example putting together over 100 packages and going to the post office to mail them all in one night. The jobs may not be fun but keeping a good attitude says something about your character and is just another way to prove yourself.
  4. Branch Out: If you would’ve asked me at any point in my life if I saw myself working for a tech company, I would’ve said absolutely no way. I don’t see myself as a “tech” person, but of course my internship opportunity was at a tech company. I was worried that I wouldn’t enjoy my internship but decided to go through with it anyways. I ended up loving my internship and accepted a job after it was over. If there is an opportunity for an internship, even for something you may not be extremely interested in, think of it as an opportunity to figure out what you like – there’s never any harm in learning something new. And the great thing about internships is that there is no strings attached, you are allowed to turn down a job at the end of it all and you earned another experience to add to the resume.
  5. Networking Is Key: As I mentioned before, I was recommended for my internship through a connection I had. Whether you are looking for an internship, real job or even just a simple job in retail, connections are important. While having a college degree is typically required, it doesn’t guarantee anything. If you don’t personally know anyone, talk to your professors. They may be willing to help you and probably know more people in the industry than you think!

So, if you’re anything like I was and completely ignoring all the internship talk, even with graduation right around the corner, take some time and look at some internship opportunities. You never know what you’ll learn or where it might lead.