Top Five Tips for Beating the "I'm-Just-an-Intern" Mentality

March 20, 2020 Katherine Lower

Top Five Tips for Beating the

Whenever you step into a new environment, it’s easy to slide into a pattern of self-doubt or imposter-syndrome.

However, in order to maximize your contribution as an intern in the workplace it is essential to move past these hesitations into a mentality of self-assurance. Here’s how: 

Tip 1: Recognize that this is normal

No one is exempt from feeling underqualified or out-of-place — even a seasoned professional with decades of experience will feel out-of-place at a new work environment. To avoid feeling self-doubt based on your status, remember that your organization recognized the value and importance of creating this position in the first place, and that you’ve been selected because your manager believes in your potential.  

Tip 2: Remember that everyone starts somewhere

Everyone in your office started somewhere and it’s likely that they were once interns. Ease intimidation by discovering the professional network of the people around you. As an intern, you are expected to ask questions. Be sure to not abandon your daily tasks, but take control of your time at work and connect. Understanding where people come from allows you to synthesize the meaning of your position and potential career path. 

To avoid feeling self-doubt based on your status, remember that your organization recognized the value and importance of creating this position in the first place.

Tip 3: Take ownership

Once you have settled in, it is important to take ownership of your internship. Piece together how you might stand out or go the extra mile. While this may come easy to some and harder to others – setting goals alleviates the pressure of failure. If your work is not clear- cut, assess what is needed or missing in the workplace and fill in the gaps. If your work is clear-cut, create action steps and a time management plan. In either case, organization will allow you to stay on top of your game. 

Tip 4: Manage your attitude

As an intern, one of your most powerful tools is your attitude. It doesn’t matter if you’re stapling papers or leading a project — what you do and how you do it matters. Show that you care and are capable. After all, an internship is a learning experience. 

Tip 5: Be confident

Trust in your abilities — even if you’re feeling uncertain of your ability, keep asking questions. You’ll gain a better understanding of the true gaps in your knowledge and skills (and not the gaps you think you may have due to self-doubt).

Quashing the “I’m-just-an-intern” mentality starts with recognizing the value of your own position. Self-assurance comes from listening, synthesizing, and an eagerness to apply yourself, even when you are not expected to — or there’s a chance that you might fail. Remember that both your successes and your failures help build your overall experience and efficiency as a professional. 


Curious about what else you can be doing to become better prepared for the post-college professional world? Sign up to learn how a professional semester in Washington, D.C. can equip you with the experience, skills and network you need to succeed. 


 

About the Author

Katherine Lower

Katherine Lower is an international relations major at Samford University interning at the Peace Corps in Spring 2020.

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