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You got an internship -- now don't screw it up

Jenna Johnson

Today's guest blogger is Amanda Lindner, who just graduated from George Washington University. Amanda has interned at the Peace Corps in Washington and at amNewYork, a free daily paper in New York City. Right now, Amanda is looking for a job, but she took a break to share some intern tips.

Amanda_Lindner.JPGGet to know everyone
You might only have one boss, but you're probably expected to be everyone's intern at some point during the summer. Learn something about each person's job so you can offer your help when available and let others get to know you as well. If they know what you're interested in, you might be asked to join in on a particular project.

During my first year interning at the Peace Corps, I mostly poured information into spreadsheets, but after meeting the person who wrote one of the agency's newsletters and talking to her about my journalism studies, I was asked to write two stories for the publication. My work was printed in the following newsletter and the experience helped me get a second internship working in the agency's communications department.

Have an emergency kit
D.C. summers are hot and humid so it's a good idea to carry a little weather emergency kit with you to your internship. Some things you may want are a travel-size deodorant, face wipes, a small water bottle and hand sanitizer.

Learn your way around the city
You may be sent out to cover an event or talk with a source. Being directionally challenged is no excuse to be late for an interview or deadline. Luckily, Washington isn't too hard to navigate with the right tools.

The first step is to look over the Metrorail map and get familiar with the color-coded trains and stops. You can even download the map to your iPod.

Next, get a SmarTrip card. It'll get you through the fare gates faster and you won't have to take the time to search for change if you're riding the bus.

Make friends with Web sites like hopstop.com to get step-by-step directions, and smart phone applications like thenexttrain.com, which tell you when the next train is coming and help you avoid a long wait.

Lastly, don't mess up the details; the same street can exist in completely different parts of the city, and often does, so make sure the address is NE and not SE or SW and not NW, or you could lose a lot of time.

Nothing is free (except maybe your labor)
I learned this lesson the hard way when I discovered the beauty closet interning for a newspaper. Designers often sent clothes, make up and jewelry to be reviewed -- all of which were kept in a metal storage closet within the newsroom. My boss told me that anything the paper didn't use was either sent back to the designer or left in the closet and up for grabs (Jackpot! Right?).

What she forgot to tell me was that she also kept her own belongings in the same place. During one excursion into the beauty closet, I found a trendy floral-print umbrella, perfect for my rainy trip home. Just a few minutes before I left for the day, my boss came over to see if I had seen her umbrella anywhere around the office.

My face was redder than the flowers on the waterproof fabric as I reached under my desk to hand my boss her umbrella I had accidentally stolen. Luckily, she had a sense of humor, but I'm sure she never forgot the incident, and I never went near that beauty closet again. Whether it's as simple as office supplies or the latest accessory, just leave everything where you found it, even if it's "free."

Nothing is for nothing, and if it is, there's probably a catch and you don't want to get caught in the rain.

Campus Overload is a daily must-read for all D.C. interns. So, make sure to bookmark http://washingtonpost.com/campus-overload.

You can also follow me on Twitter and fan Campus Overload on Facebook.

By Jenna Johnson  |  June 8, 2010; 1:09 PM ET
Categories:  D.C. Interns  | Tags: Internships  
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Comments

Great tips, Amanda!

I'd also remind interns that when free food is offered - whether it's a pizza lunch or a formal dinner - don't be a hog! Hang back to see how senior staff serve themselves (and what they order).

Posted by: kbockl | June 8, 2010 3:44 PM | Report abuse

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