What I Learned During My First Internship

  • Michelle Li
  • |
  • Nov 2, 2017

The summer after first year I was a marketing intern in a downtown Toronto start-up. While working your first summer off in university might not be for everyone, I found the experience and skills I learned helped me a lot for life at school and beyond. Here are some tips I have for anyone entering their first internship or beginning to look into the process.

Be Honest

Going into my internship I had little knowledge about start-ups and marketing. The first week was overwhelming since I not only had to familiarize myself with projects in the marketing department, but I also had to learn how to use Google Analytics, Slack, and a ton of other software the company used. One of my regrets is not asking enough questions early on. I later became too nervous to bring it up because it seemed like something I should have already known. Chances are, your manager doesn’t expect you to know everything and have an error rate of zero. Be honest when you don’t know how to do something or make a mistake.

Act Like a Sponge

I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by a ton of amazing and accomplished co-workers and interns, and I learned a lot about business (and life) just by listening and talking to them inside and outside of the office. Make the effort to get to know everyone in your workplace and ask questions about their current projects, which companies they’ve worked at before, and even university tips. These connections can extend well past your summer in the office. By  interacting with my manager and colleagues, I’ve also learned so much about what it meant to be an effective leader and mentor - namely that asking for feedback and being open to new ideas is key.

Say Yes to Everything

Whether it was training sessions, office socials, or coffee chats, say yes, yes, and yes. While four months can seem like a long time, it can also pass in an instant. You have a limited time in the company and should make sure to participate in everything you can. Partaking in these events can add balance to all the work you’re doing in the office and round out your internship experience. Don’t ever feel nervous about joining something because you’re “just an intern”.

Go Above and Beyond

While it’s important to not overwork yourself (summer is supposed to be a time for relaxation after all), really aim to put out your best work at all times. I made sure that my work was clear and all my processes could be easily explained if one of my coworkers asked a question. Being fast to respond to new tasks and quickly adapt to concepts can be really impressive too.

Be Thoughtful

Lastly, be grateful. Getting an internship in first year can be a shot in the dark and many companies are reluctant to hire someone with no track record. Whenever I felt tired or unmotivated at work, I reminded myself how lucky I was to be here in the first place. I was so happy to work on so many exciting projects and see my coworkers everyday – making it easy to have a positive attitude. Giving goodbye gifts and cards or simply treating your coworkers to coffee can go a long way in making a lasting impression.


  • Marketing