Staying Focused as an Intern

One of the most difficult aspects of working at an internship, especially if it’s your first, is the fact that you have to filter out a myriad of distractions that incessantly threaten your focus. Luckily for many of us, 80% to 90% of these distractions stem from the mother of all Catch-22s, our computers. Social networking sites, video portals, and bookmarking services are the bane of any curious intern’s concentration. It’s important to come to terms with and get a grip on our weakness and take some preparatory measures.

Keep track of your daily activities– Whenever you hop off the task you’re currently working on to check out a status update, drill down a tweet, or follow a link in an email, take a note of how long you spend doing so. There are time management applications such as RescueTime or TimeSnapper that keep a record of your computer activity and allow you to track just how much time you are wasting.

When knowing isn’t enough- If knowing that you’re wasting 1.5 to 2 hours on Facebook on a daily basis isn’t enough to motivate a change, consider a url blocker that keeps you from visiting those sites during certain hours. CNet offers a wide variety of blockers meant for protecting kids from exposed genitalia which can handily be applied to blocking the sites that suck up most of your productive day.

Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize- Last but quite the opposite of least, make sure you prioritize any task that is assigned to you and make sure that you move through your prioritized list in an organized, logical way. It can be a real pain for those of us used to doing things on the fly, but will utimately help you avoid embarassing incidents of forgotting an important task or doing the wrong thing at the wrong time.

Getting used to a working routine can take a lot of time, and sometimes takes several internships to fully grasp. Don’t beat yourself and focus on what’s important: you’re there to learn. The rest will come on its own, or I will stumble across the same situation and blog about it. Good day.

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Not your typical intern advice

Okay, time be straight up. I’ve been pretty fortunate to have experienced a variety of internships doing a number of different things. Every experience is different, from the amount and quality of work that comes out of you to the pay and the people you work with. It’s not uncommon to get lucky and fall into an internship that expects a lot less out of you than you could offer, and it’s easy to get into a comfortable groove where you do the minimum necessary and just coast.

Many of us have also made it in life by achieving clearly defined goals set by our teachers or other superiors. We feel good about getting good grades, and about the fact that we are above the “status quo” and met or surpassed expectations. Life is not really like this if you really want to make it.

When people say that they enjoy their work because its challenging, that’s not because they work along predefined guidelines to produce a product that measures up to a predetermined standard. Once you are really working, the sky is the limit with the quality of your work and the effort you put into it. To really succeed, you have to pour yourself into a project and really THINK about what is going on. It’s not just about meeting a set of criteria that determine a pass/fail. You have to push your project or assignment ot the point where you are really delivering something of value to your company. And there are tons of people pursuing the same or similar goals as you are. Imagine the hardest you ever schemed while trying to win a game or navigate a social challenge and stretch it out for days at end, then you have the experience of working a “challenging job”

I don’t mean to be discouraging in this post, actually just the opposite. I want to encourage everyone to push themselves to do their best now, so that it’s not such a shock once you hit the real world. There are hundreds of millions of people who are not as well off as you who would happily take your position in society and continue to fight their way up. Get on top of your game now so that you can hit the ground running when you git the job market and really make something out of yourself.

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Impress your employer- With Posterous

With the huge quantity of online content available to enrich and educate employees in every imaginable field, it can be hard to keep track of the gems that make their way around an office email list. Digging through an overstuffed deleted mail folder is not only tedious, but the content is stuck there and will likely never reach successive generations of employees. A quick way to easily solve a problem nagging managers at nearly every company, namely knowledge archiving, comes from a simple online blogging tool.

Enter Posterous to save the day. This nifty blogging service allows members to email blog posts instead of having to log on to a publishing dashboard or UI. Archiving a useful link, article, or information tidbit is as easy as a quick email to Posterous. Entries can be tagged according to content and can then be searched for at a later date. New interns or employees can quickly browse through and read the blogs content to get up to speed on the latest office discussion topics and see how it has evolved. This system is a quick, modern solution to an ages old problem thats absolutely free! Time to try it for yourself, let me know in the comments how it works out for you

Thanks to @mikeschwede at @orange8 for the idea behind this clever use of Posterous.

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Taking full advantage of your internship

Interning is an important step toward securing a solid position after college. Not only are you gathering valuable work skills, you’re also getting accustomed to the typical mechanics of work life and laying a mental foundation for the rest of your life. I know you’ve been preached this same spiel 20 million times, so I’m going to launch straight into the meat of my advice.

It’s all about Documentation– Being able to display examples of work is a surefire way to set yourself apart from other job applicants when it really matters. Don’t be lazy now and force yourself to scramble and dig for documents when you really need them. Start a portfolio folder and start putting away work you’re proud of. Anything that stands out to you should be automatically dropped in the folder for later reference. Trust me, it’ll be a lot easier to pick out the best stuff than to have to dig around when the time comes. If you’re feeling like a total overachiver, upload the files to the cloud with a service like Box.net or Google Docs.

Reference Letters– Sure, you’re trying your best at your internship because that’s what you’re supposed to do. The true reward, however, comes when you can ask for a reference letter, or even better, a letter of recommendation from your employer. This is a personal guarantee that you have performed your responsibilities to your fullest and that you are a quality employee. Neighbor references are for highschoolers, the shit you get from an internship lands you jobs with Fortune 500 companies.

Employee Education– There are many names for this one, but it’s absolutely one you should take advantage of. If you see offerings for any kinds of educational courses at your place of employment, make sure you work your ass off so your employer gives you time to take these. Any type of certification or advanced training will work wonders for your resume and carry you through an interview.

Internships can be miserable, they can be tedious, but ultimately they are incredibly valuable to your pursuit of a fruitful career. Don’t be lazy and take a few simple measures to carry the fruit of your labor to your next interview.
Leave a comment about your own internship experience, and if you’re feeling a little overachieveresque maybe even a link to a piece of your work!

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Smartphone Apps for Interns- Food

A few must have’s for all you savvy grocery shoppers and foodies, this stuff will help you find the best eats and deals while making your life that much easier.

Foursquare is quickly gaining users and more and more businesses are beginning to offer “Mayors” rewards for their loyalty. If a store doesn’t already have a program in place, consider explaining the service to them andconvincing them to start something up. Typical offers include percent discounts and free items now and again.

Yelp is great for finding out the specialties and prices of local grocers. Especially useful for big metropolitan cities, but also good for average sized cities, it’s the quickest way to inform yourself about the best food at your local grocery stores.

Card Bank is a cool utility for smart phone users that lets you put all your shopping rewards cards on your phone by entering your account number. Instead of carrying around a fat bundle of cards, the cashier can simply scan the barcode displayed on your phone.

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Eating on an Intern’s Pay (Or Lack Thereof)

Unfortunately, the fact of the matter is that intern pay is not nearly stellar, if you’re lucky enough to be getting any at all. Trying to squeeze the most out of your limited budget takes a little creativity, but with a few simple adjustments you can step away from that ramen diet and enjoy yourself every now and again.

Shopping- Grocery shopping can quickly add up if you’re not savvy and careful about what you buy and when. Shop sales, and keep an eye on circulars to stock up on essentials when they come on sale. Non-perishables are perfect for hoarding, and if there happens to be a good deal on meat or vegetables, considering cooking up a big batch of soup or sauce and freezing it in portions for later. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as thawing out some home made soup for a hearty meal without all the work required for cooking.

Cooking Can be a royal pain in the ass, and will quickly frustrate you if you don’t make things easy for yourself. Set aside a day on the weekend or an afternoon after work to cook up a big batch for portioning and freezing. Soups, stews, and sauces make great portionable meals that just require pasta or rice for a complete meal. Salads of all sorts, smoothies, and wraps are also great. You can toss items in an oven and go about your business while they cook, an invaluable kitchen tool. Also, items like couscous, grits, and oatmeal just require hot water and make a good side dish or breakfast.

Eating Out- Eating out for evey meal can quickly eat through your weekly budget, and make you fat. Take a step back and add up how much you”re spending on eating out, and you’ll be shocked at how much you’re blowing on subs a week. Try to make eating out a reward or something special. For the rest of the days, make yourself a big salad or sandwich at home to bring in. If you hit a sale at a grocery store, you can stock up on frozen dinners super cheap, which make a good alternative to eating out. When you do go out, make it worth it and find a good eat through one of many review sites like YelpUrbanspoon, or your local newspaper.

If you avoid eating out and familiarize yourself with your kitchen, you can save a ton of money. Not only are you lining your pockets, but your gut will thank you as well.

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