by Liv

What I Learned at My Summer Internship

I spent this summer interning at BCI Hawkeye Division in Cedar Falls, IA. While I was there I was a part of the design team creating corrugated packaging. This included structural and graphic work using all of Adobe suites and Artios CAAD software. Additionally, we worked and communicated with the production, sales, and customer service teams throughout the entire process of each project.

To give you an idea of what this kind of work looks like, here is an image of a barn box we worked on. This included the structure and graphics for Maytag Dairy Farms Company. The video shows the boxes running in the manufacturing plant.

Aside from the useful skills I learned during my experience, I gathered some insights about internships in general and what you should expect to get out of them. This is a good read for those of you who have yet to have an internship, and also for those of you who just want to compare with your own experiences. Read on to learn what an internship is!

So what is an internship?

What I have found is that an internship often entails a wide variety of tasks and responsibilities…some in which have nothing to do with your intended major, skill set or goals. This is okay! What I have come to understand is that a good internship experience means you are able to contribute to the company, and in return they contribute to your progression in your dedicated field.

Just being in a true work environment has exposed me to more than I could ever imagine. Here are some of the key take a ways that I didn’t expect to learn from my first internship.

Priorities and multitasking – Deadlines are something we as college students are used to, however the consequences for not meeting those deadlines can be a rude awakening. No longer does not completing the project on time just affect your letter grade – it now affects those following your role in the process – this includes your colleagues in production, sales, and even the customer! This is why it is important to learn how to manage multiple projects at the same time and prioritize those with the earliest deadline.

Basics of being professional – Aside from how to dress, there are other things that factor into appearing professional. Things like learning that “on-time” actually means showing up early or gaining a sense of urgency. These are both qualities that add to your professionalism.

Expectations and exceeding them – As stated earlier, you may be assigned a wide range of responsibilities that might be outside of your intended major or comfort zone and this is a really good thing! Keeping an open mind will expand your potential to learn even more than you had ever anticipated! On the other hand, it is also important to know your expectations for the internship and communicate to your employer what you want to learn from it.

Company culture – Company culture plays a huge role in overall experience. I have learned that picking up on the company’s behaviors and habits can help you adjust to your new surroundings more easily. Try to answer questions like… What is the implied dress code? When is a proper time to take lunch? Is there a designated spot to eat lunch? To use your personal phone or to not? (Many companies prefer using their cell phones for business calls). Is there such thing as too many bathroom breaks? How do co-workers interact with each other? Is it okay to joke around? – Some places it is! Overall, company culture varies from place to place and learning what kind of atmosphere you want to work in will help you make big work decisions later down the road!

Learning to work with people – Group projects always have their challenges, but when it comes to the professional world, you will no longer be working with your classmates. Differences in generation, gender, backgrounds, perspective, and mindset all influence your end goal. Learning how to communicate with all types of people is crucial in the work place.

Learning to ask for help – Attempting to do tasks on your own is good. Venture out of your comfort zone and learn new things, but don’t be afraid to ask when there is uncertainty – Big mistakes cost money!

Finally, accepting that everything takes longer than expected – This is one that seems to always apply, work or non-work related. Often times you get pulled away or interrupted during the typical work day. This may cause you to fall behind on certain projects. Remembering to account for and accept this extra time will save you from unwanted frustration and stress later on.

Overall, internships are a great way to advance in your desired field and get a feel for real workplace expectations. Similarly, it allows you to form preferences regarding your future –For example, what type of people do you want to work with? In what region do you wish to live? Do you prefer a professional or work casual atmosphere? What aspects do you like about this profession? These are all good things to learn about yourself before moving on to your next experience. As always, you are now more prepared than you were before.

Thanks for reading!

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