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At the crossroads of various industries, Manhattan is a lucrative place for anyone looking to start their careers, and young New York pre-professionals are crazy about summer internships. Whether it’s for Goldman Sachs or Dean & Deluca, there are always major corporations (often based in New York) that need fresh ideas and cheap labor. So, whether for your Mom’s company back home or for a terrifyingly corporate position in New York, getting the most out of your internship can take a bit of finessing.
If this is your first internship, don’t feel disqualified or unreliable: consider your youth your most valuable asset. It’s important to bring fresh ideas to whatever your job is (assuming you’re given a bit more leeway than data-entry). And, if you’re not awarded too much freedom at first, then just work your way to that point: listen to everything your superiors say, don’t ask questions unless they’re absolutely necessary (see below), and nail the balance between speed and thoughtfulness in every task.
“Why am I doing this?” “What’s the address of the restaurant by Grand Central you’re going to?” “Can I go home early?” All of these questions should be avoided. If you want to make a positive impression on your superiors, don’t ever reject any kind of work (whether you want it or not). Additionally, if your boss needs you to deliver something to, say, the Andaz Hotel on Wall Street, don’t ask them for the address- google it. And never ask to go home early, ever. If anything, I prefer to stay until they force me to leave. Asking if they have examples of past spreadsheets that you’ve been tasked with doing, or whether you can help with ________ task they mentioned to you before; on the other hand, are the among the few questions worth asking.
My experience is mostly in fashion editorial, so I wouldn’t dress the same way that my friends interning at Barclay’s would. For your first week or two, the more formal, the better. As you get a better feel for the company and the office culture, feel free to adapt. When in doubt, mirror the most revered employee’s sartorial choices. As for fashion internships, I personally think it’s suited me best to let my work speak before my clothes. I do look like a fashion intern, but usually in something simple (no ballgowns here, please): you want to be remembered for yourself and for your work, not for your Chanel purse.
If there’s one thing being begged at here, in every instance: it’s a constant act of adaptation. Don’t let yourself get too comfortable in your role, no matter how much it expands: always ask yourself if you could be doing more, ask your boss if there’s any way you can help with _____, if you could sit in on a meeting. The best way, I think, to be remembered fondly as an intern and have a positive working relationship is to think to do things other people would not care to/would not think to do. Finding a way to do it all is, inherently, becoming indispensable.