Not many people know this, but over the summer, I interned with Turner Broadcasting System in Atlanta as a Marketing and Promotions Intern for TNT/TBS. It was my first big corporate internship, and I was definitely not confident in my professional presence. I walked in with a lot of misconceptions and made a lot of mistakes, but by the end, I was so grateful that I learned so much early on in my career.
Thanks to the guidance of my team, I grew immensely in three months, and now I want to share some of the things that I learned with you! Here are five things I learned during my first big internship:
- You may communicate differently than everyone else.
In one of my earlier posts about things I learned on my first day, I said that meetings consume most of the day, and that’s something that is true everywhere in the corporate world. Sometimes these meetings consist of three people and other times 20 people.
For me, I’ve never been comfortable in groups, and I always felt insecure at Turner because I was usually the youngest one in the room. I mean… who would want to listen to a 21-year-old with barely any life experience, hasn’t even graduated college and has absolutely no idea of how to communicate without using “fuck” in every other sentence?
It took me a while to figure out that I was more confident when I was talking to someone one-on-one. I started spending time with my team members one-on-one, and that’s when I really started learning about the business. I felt more comfortable asking questions and stating my opinions (something that I could never do during meetings). I felt better asking for help, and in turn, I was able to present some of my best work.
2. Co-workers are people too.
Even if you aren’t as introverted as I am, you can also learn something from spending one-on-one time with your co-workers. When we weren’t talking about work stuff, we talked about our interests, families, and hopes and dreams. I learned about their journeys through life and the things they regret doing or not doing, and in addition to the great professional advice they gave me, I walked away with even better life advice from them.
These are things you don’t talk about during meetings, so be sure that you take some time out to really get to know the people you work with. Everyone’s got a story to tell, and you can learn so much from just listening.
3. The approval process will drive you crazy.
This wasn’t something that I had to deal with directly, but I saw my teammates deal with it every day. Getting shit done in a corporate environment is not easy. They had to report back to so many people and make sure that every single detail was bulletproof or else they’d get sued. Keeping people in the loop was also a struggle because people from different departments all had a role in producing a final product, and sometimes there was miscommunication or confusion about who did what.
Although I never really had to get anything approved, I’m dreading the moment I have to jump through hoops to get something done because I’m so used to getting things done by myself without having to check in with anyone else. But I’ve got a while to work on that, so hopefully by the time I need a job, I will have had more opportunities to work with big groups.
4. Any catered food is good food.
My very first task at Turner was to order lunch for a meeting, and you would think that it would be a fairly simple task, right? Wrong, at least for me.
I’m not familiar with the Atlanta area since I’ve been in the suburbs all my life, so when I had to research restaurants, I thought I was going to die. I didn’t know if I should be basic and get sandwiches or if I should order Mexican food for a fiesta. And I didn’t know what restaurants were good. And I didn’t know how much I should spend. And I didn’t know how much food was too much food. And I didn’t know what types of drinks to get. And I didn’t know if anyone was gluten free or a vegetarian.
Basically I entered full-on panic mode because I just wanted to make sure everyone was happy with their lunch. But I learned later on that people aren’t all that choosy when it comes to free food. As long as you pick something that people like in general (sandwiches, pizza, bagels, etc.) you’ll be fine. But do make sure you know if someone has dietary restrictions because it’s cruel to make someone sit in a meeting with delicious food that they can’t eat.
5. Your insights are what make you valuable.
I don’t call myself an expert in anything except maybe celebrity news (thanks, TMZ). I used to think I knew a lot about television until I came to Turner and realized that I had no idea that all these shows were on air. The only shows I know about are the ones my friends watch and the ones on Netflix since I cut off my cable package three years ago.
I initially saw this as a disadvantage, but because I am a part of the new generation that doesn’t consume linear television, I had the advantage of knowing what strategies Turner could put in place to reach us with their shows. I was constantly asked about my my habits as a “cord-cutter” and what insights I could offer as someone who was in the majority of consumers today.
I didn’t think that it was a big issue in the industry until I went to meetings dedicated to reaching millennials like me, and it was such a cool feeling to be able to answer some of the questions my bosses had about the “cord-cutting” lifestyle.
Although I was pretty nervous about not having cable and working in the television industry, it was that very fact that made me the most valuable to the company.
Valet – I learned how valet parking works.
Before I begin, let me explain that I am from the suburbs, and there’s never a need for valet parking. My parents also refuse to pay someone to do something that they can do themselves, so valet parking never even crossed their minds. So can you imagine the look of confusion on my face when I went to a happy hour with my team and a strange man tried to park my car?
What had happened was… I drove up to bartaco in Atlanta for a happy hour with the other interns and our teams. Everyone started getting out of their cars, and I just assumed they had parked their car in weird areas. I mean, it’s Atlanta, and people park in random places all the time.
So when this guy walked up to my car and tried to open my door, I was like… “what tf are you doing?”
Which prompted him to say, “Ma’am, this is valet parking.” He had to explain the whole process to me before I let him get in my car. I was only slightly embarrassed, but hey… that’s life.