Earlier this year, I packed up my belongings, hopped a plane from Singapore, and landed in the U.S. to start a year of interning in NYC.
Having never been to NYC before, I had no idea what to expect during my internship at Hive. Luckily, I’ve learned a lot, made wonderful friends, and lasting memories. Interning abroad can be challenging – especially in a city as crazy as NYC! Here are five things I wish I had known before starting this journey.
1. Research. Research. Research!
First thing first, always do your research beforehand. I learned the hard way just how confusing New York City can be. There are so many things you need to do to live in NYC. From housing, to bank accounts, to paperwork, to navigating the subway. Research EVERYTHING before you arrive.
The first day terror
One thing I should have researched better – the subway. How is it possible to have FOUR different stations named 14th Street? On the first day of work, I was 15 minutes late, and it was not exactly an ideal start. I arrived at the wrong station and then walked in the wrong direction. I am sure you can partly attribute it to my bad navigation skills, but the message here is to not underestimate anything.
Anything that can go wrong will go wrong
– Murphy’s law
So research, map out your route, settle your accommodations, and be fully prepared to rock your internship. A good impression is a good start!
2. Put Your Best Foot Forward (No Matter How Small The Job)
It’s not always easy working in a foreign city, and a learning curve definitely exists. On the very first day of an internship, you’re thrown into a new position and there is hardly anything you can do to prepare for it. Like many of us that intern abroad, I had glamorous ideas about working in NYC. During my internship, I’ve gotten some incredible opportunities to build products and own strategy. But this came after I put my best foot forward, did not compromise quality for quantity, and proved I was willing to do any task – big or small.
Mundane work comes with any job
There are times you will be tasked to do administrative tasks, like keying in excel rows after rows… It cannot be helped. Sometimes you will find yourself questioning why you were studying so hard only to do mundane stuff. However, every role in the job is important, and having the mindset on how these tasks are able to help the company is important.
Successful companies are successful because they do mundane stuff well. If you have been given a mundane task (data-entry), then take it and turn it into something greater. Add in some macros and make it well-organized so that it is easy for everyone to navigate.
If you can do mundane tasks well, you will definitely be given more opportunities as an intern.
3. Use Cases, Use Cases, and More Use Cases
Hive strongly believes in providing maximum value to our users and the company. As a young startup, everyone is encouraged to contribute ideas to grow the company and product. One thing I learned quickly, was that every suggestion should come with a use case. Why are we doing this? What value will it provide to our customers?
It’s easy to throw out tons of ideas. It’s harder to validate them. When I started my internship, I struggled with this because I’m used to just doing everything I’m told. But I was encouraged to always ask questions, and while scary at first, is something I recommend every intern does when given a task.
Questions to ask:
- In doing this task, what issue am I addressing? What is the use case for the customer?
- What is the expected outcome once the issue is addressed? What value are we bringing to our users or the company?
These two questions will lead you to a 3W framework of “who-what-why?”. Developing use cases can be tough, it requires absolute clarity and understanding of the process. So keep practicing! It’s a valuable skill to practice during your internship, and will make you shine in any job moving forward.
4. Happy Hours Are Real (Remember To Have Fun!)
Internships can be really fulfilling and fun, and sometimes I forget that I am getting paid every day to do wonderful things. Yet, it can also be really tiring and it can feel like the list of tasks will never end. But don’t forget to let loose! Happy hour is a great time for the team to come together and chat about anything and everything. Some of the greatest fun I’ve had as an intern has been during happy hours and company lunch events. Nothing better than good food, good drink, and good gossip!
*Quick tip: Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. If you cannot hold your liquor, I would suggest for you to maintain your consumption or face dire consequence of sprouting nonsense. Trust me, I know 😉
5. Organization Is Key
Task management is extremely complicated in every business. It’s not as structured as coursework where you follow a straightforward process of five modules, six classes, and seven tutorials. As an intern, you have to manage everything efficiently. Understanding that change is the only constant, you have to prioritize what is important. You can be working on a blog post today, launching on product hunt tomorrow, and building your own product a week later. It is important to keep track of what is ahead of you.
Staying on top of the game
To start, you can keep track of all your tasks and meetings with the traditional pen and paper. Or you can make use of the many resources online. I am blessed that working at Hive, a productivity platform, I can use our own software to manage all my tasks and conversations. It makes it so easy to keep track of my tasks vs. having them get lost in waves and waves of email.
The scrum methodology
To help prioritize my tasks, our marketing team uses the agile scrum methodology. Instead of having just one big goal, you break the goal up into smaller tasks or projects that run from one to four weeks. We call this a sprint. The length of a sprint depends on your team’s preference and the nature of work.
There are many methods and tips out on the internet, find out what structure is most useful for you and ace your internship!