You’re a month into your new summer internship and things are going great.
You’ve perfected the whole business attire thing and learned who’s who in the office.
No more filing mail or fact-checking stories — your supervisor has finally given you your own assignment to complete! She hands you a packet of information, rattles off a long list of directions, and tells you she’d like the finished product on her desk at the end of the week.
Here’s when the panic sets in.
As soon as she walks away, you realize you have no clue what she wants you to do. You look around and realize you’re on your own. Everyone else is busy, effortlessly doing their own thing. You suddenly wish you would have that job at the local diner.
You know you need help but you don’t know who to ask or even how to ask them. You don’t want to end up in this kind of a situation, so we’ve talked to internship experts and interns just like you to learn the dos and don’ts of asking for help at an internship.
How do I ask for help?
Be polite and prepared.
Lauren Berger, the CEO of Intern Queen, recommends asking all of your questions at once and having a pen and paper with you so you can take notes. “If your boss asks you to do research, approach your boss and say, ‘I’m having problems; are there any techniques I can use to get this done faster?’” Berger says.
Don’t just storm in and complain about not understanding something.
“When asking for help, make sure you communicate what steps you have already taken to find the answer and ask where else you should look or who else you should talk to. This shows that you are conscientious and willing to do the work yourself rather than be handed the answer every time. For example, “I looked online and talked to the staff representative, but I’m still not sure of … Where can I find that answer?” suggests Alaine, a senior at Miami University (OH).
“First, always ask ‘Is this a good time to talk about a question I have on xyz?’” says Shelly Marie Redmond, the founder, CEO, and internship supervisor of College Lifestyles . It’s important to be confident and to follow through on whatever method you decide to use to get the help you need.
Know how your boss likes to handle questions.
Kelsey, a junior at Boston University, says, “At one of my internships this summer, we have an IM system so we can all keep in touch with our supervisors. My supervisor loves being asked questions of all sorts, but I think it’s important to definitely make sure asking a million questions is alright with yours! I’d suggest starting off a question with ‘Sorry to bother you’ the first few times and then see what he or she says.”
Also, be sure to just ask! Does your boss/supervisor prefer you to approach them directly in-person? Should you email them first? IM them? You can ask your boss their preferred method of communication on the first day (or now, if you haven’t asked her yet).
Make your questions matter.
“The general experience I’ve had at jobs/internships is to not be afraid of asking questions, so long as your supervisor is free,” Annie, a junior at University of Chicago, says.
But remember to be a hard worker if you want others to take your questions seriously. “When you show an appreciation for a company/organization, help flies in your direction. But if you are in and out, late on assignments, and bragging about your 14 other internships and night out on the town—it is a lot harder to get help,” Redmond says.
Who should I ask?
You might think it doesn’t matter who you ask as long as your question gets answered, but it really does make a difference.
“Do read the policy and procedure packet to determine if a proper chain of command exists for asking questions,” Redmond says. The rule of thumb is to use your resources before reaching out to your internship supervisor whether that resource is the Internet or the intern who works next to you. “I think this all depends on the atmosphere of your internship. I am currently an intern at a relatively small PR firm and find it easy to ask for help all the time! I work pretty closely with the Account Executive and we get along really well so I do not find a problem with speaking up,” says Alexa, a junior at James Madison University and HC campus correspondent.
“Last semester at Seventeen I gave myself a question-asking rule. If I didn’t know how to do something I went to my instruction manual first, then my fellow interns, and if all else failed I went to my editor. I think that questions are a big part of an internship. You are there to learn and you aren’t expected to know everything right away,” says Shaye, a senior at the Fashion Institute of Technology.
You should be looking out for your fellow interns and they should be looking out for you.
It’s true, you probably want to stand out from the crowd and go above and beyond the other interns, but always be helpful and friendly so they will help you when you need it.
“I intern for Miami magazine and the people there are really helpful. If I need help with anything, I ask. They understand that I’m an intern and are really patient with me. However, I also know that they can’t do my job for me, so if I’m looking for the paper clips or don’t know how to print on glossy paper, I’ll ask one of my fellow interns or try to figure it out myself,” says Jaime, a senior at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
“I like to see interns reach out to one another. I would encourage asking a question to an intern who has been with the company for a while (semester, etc.),” Redmond says. This way, you’re still going to a more knowledgeable source but you aren’t interrupting your supervisor. But remember, don’t always trust the other interns.
“When I was interning at FOX, we were assigned the task of organizing scripts and one of the other interns assumed we were supposed to organize it alphabetically but they wanted us to do it by date—don’t assume!” Berger says.
Sometimes the answer you need is right inside of you.
Dig up all the information you’ve received since starting your internship or use the wonderful Internet to help you solve your problem (Google is your best friend—you want to be as resourceful as possible, whether it’s fact-checking or something as “silly” as how to change the printer cartridges).
Use this as your last resort.
It’s way better if you’re the intern who takes initiative and gets the job done on your own instead of constantly asking your boss for help. There are certain circumstances when asking your supervisor is the best option: If you think your company’s reputation is on the line or if you’re dealing with something super important like a celeb interview.
Aside from keeping in mind the type of assignment you’re working on, you should also consider who is going to see your work. If the project you’re working on is going to be handed in to the CEO of the company or editor-in-chief, asking your supervisor for help is a smart idea.
A smaller project like organizing your company’s address book or coming up with a press list is something you should be able to figure out on your own.
“I felt like I was pestering my supervisor a lot of the time, but she actually didn’t mind the questions at all because at the end of the day, I was learning and these questions needed to be asked so we could avoid problems from creeping up,” Annie says.
Berger says you should always ask your supervisor for help when you’re not 100 percent sure about something. “The internship coordinator would always rather have you bother them with a two second question than mess something up,” she says.
“I do try and figure things out for myself the first time around not only to learn but to try and make a good impression on my supervisors and show them that I can figure things out for myself!” Alexa says. Your supervisor has enough to do as is and will appreciate your ability to find the answers to some questions on your own. If you’re doubting yourself, it’s okay to check with your supervisor or another intern to see if your solution will work before implementing it.
To learn more, check out the complete article at HerCampus.com.
Powered by Facebook Comments