The Lessons I Learned At My Summer Internship

By Erica Clapp, Career Services’ Student Assistant, ’14

Howdy! I’m Erica Clapp, a junior majoring in Advertising and minoring in Policy Studies. This past summer, I interned at Penske’s Corporate HQ in Green Hills, PA. I learned a ton at my internship and tried to capture some of that in this blog post. I hope it’s helpful for those of you who are interning now or are planning to in the future!

At first, I was surprised by the amount of freedom I was given. I realized that, with no one standing over my shoulder, it was up to me to get things done. Lesson: You’re only as good as your work ethic.

However, you should strike a balance between work and play. Get to know the people in your office, because you’ll be spending a lot of time with them. Connections of some kind will probably emerge and may work to your advantage. (Note: you should always stay professional while at work).

Initially, I had the urge to ask many questions, but I realized that my colleagues were full-time professionals and very busy. Lesson: Learn how to accomplish things yourself. Be aware of the resources to which you have access. You can find the answer to almost anything if you try hard enough. Keep in mind that the solution doesn’t have to be perfect. Simply getting the job done and producing results is the most important thing.

On the first day, I realized that taking meticulous notes like I do in lectures here at SU wouldn’t work because there was simply too much to learn. Lesson: Just jump in and you’ll figure things out. Don’t worry about knowing every detail beforehand. You’ll naturally ask questions and pick things up as you go.

I’m used to going from class to class here at school, so this next lesson took a lot of self-discipline. Lesson: Focus on one thing at a time. There will be many things and people competing for your attention, which you can’t always control, but you should try to limit distractions.

One of the most valuable assets I gained is learning to communicate properly, which is the key to getting what you need. Lesson: Don’t assume people know things. However, it never hurts to ask. You have no idea how someone will respond to a question, and the worst he or she say is “no.” Also, you should be aware of different contexts. Something may not occur to you in the same way it does to other people, so try to have an open mind.

I didn’t do any envelope-stuffing or coffee runs, but some tasks did seem monotonous after a while. Granted, this is part of almost every job, but something that can make these tasks more bearable is if you have a clear understanding of the overall goal. Most projects are intricate and involve many steps that can make it hard to remember what you’re really trying to accomplish.

Last and certainly not least, take ownership for your actions. If you make a mistake, admit it and move on; your honesty will be appreciated.