Job description: check.
Can-do attitude: check.
You’ve landed the internship and you’re ready to report for work!
The pressure to “make a great impression” at an internship can be huge. “My whole future is riding on this! I have to do well!” Be careful, though. Too much worry will cloud your experience and in the end, all you’ll have learned is that nurturing a stress knot for three months is a poor strategy for a successful internship. Want to end your internship feeling like you gave it your best? Read on.
Curious and Open
Your best bet for a great internship experience is staying curious and open. So what does that mean? Watch a small child: new experiences draw their attention and laser-like focus, and they don’t stop paying attention to the new thing until they’ve pushed it, pulled it, picked it apart and put it back together. They filter nothing through a previous frame of reference (because they don’t have one) and therefore don’t judge or dismiss. They have an insatiable desire to know, and they chase that desire to the end. Adults who carry that openness and curiosity with them aren’t naive, they’ve just decided to learn first and judge later. People who did and do extraordinary things cultivated their curiosity and were open to letting what they learned take them on a journey toward an unknown result: Marie Curie, Steve Jobs, Nikola Tesla, Joseph Campbell.
You don’t have to know exactly what’s going to happen next. Be open to the journey and the destination won’t matter.
No Cocoon Necessary
So let’s say you’re already in your international destination. It can be so tempting to shut down and refuse to engage with the world when we’re experiencing culture shock (and it will happen, no matter where you go). Everything is so strange, people don’t behave the way they’re supposed to, the food doesn’t taste right. All the new sensations can feel like a psychic assault, and the mind’s first response may be to throw up barriers to protect itself from overload. You will definitely need some time to adjust, but make sure you don’t stay stuck in lockdown mode. Rest and take stock of how you’re feeling, then maybe take a walk and let your new world wash over you. Notice the smells and sounds of street life. Notice how the local citizens interact with one another. Be an active observer and you’ll get comfortable with your new home that much more quickly, and you can then carry that comfort with you into your work day.
So how can being curious and open help you in your internship?
1) Relaxation. Tense people are closed off people. Being willing to engage with the world leads to relaxation, and relaxed people are more fun to be around than tense people.
2) Developing teachability. Curious people are teachable people. Be curious about how the company operates and how your coworkers do their jobs. People like talking about their work: showing an interest in what they do and asking questions means showing an interest in their lives. They want to teach you about their work, and you’re showing that you’re willing to learn. More points for you!
3) Actually learning something. When you’re working as an intern, you’re there to learn. If you’re mentally locked down, you won’t learn a thing. For example, if your fist is closed, it’s not able to receive. Open your hand, and you’re ready to receive. Keep an open hand, eye, and mind and learning will come easily.
If you stay curious and open, you’re an asset to your organization and yourself.
Intrigued? Learn more about international internships at http://worldendeavors.com/programs/intern.