Start Off Your Career on the Right Foot

As the manager of Viacom’s Internship Program, I’ve been able to witness hundreds of students’ first steps – literally. I’ve witnessed their first steps into our building, as well as their first steps into a possible career.  Often, employees forget that this may be a student’s first time interning or working in a major corporation.

There are so many expectations around how an intern or entry-level employee should perform, and walking in the shoes of an intern is not always an easy task.  I was an intern within these walls over seven years ago, so I’d like to think that I know what it takes to be a successful intern as well as employee.

Step 1: Set your own expectations.

When you begin any new role, whether that be in an internship,  job, or even new school year, you should always have expectations of yourself and those around you. Setting realistic expectations is key. Ask yourself why you are here and what you want to gain out of the experience.

Having goals for yourself is very important. We ask each of our interns to outline their expectations and discuss them with their direct supervisor on their first day, which leads me to…

Step 2: Find out what is expected of you.

You better believe that your manager will have expectations of you. These are things you will want to take note of during your first few days. What time do they want you to come in each morning, what tasks will you be responsible for, is there a certain way they’d like you to reply to emails – these are all examples of questions you will need the answers to. Don’t get overwhelmed; remember your supervisor is there to help you meet these expectations.

Step 3: Show up.

You’d be amazed at how many students and employees waste an opportunity to prove themselves through something as simple as showing up on time. Lateness and absences contribute to overall performance and most managers won’t tolerate excessive excuses. I’m always impressed by my interns and employees when I see them showing up for work early and putting in extra hours to make sure tasks are completed to the best of their ability. It shows dedication and an overall passion for the work.

"Foot in the Door" by Nancy PoucherStep 4: Stay positive.

Everyone has an attitude, but try to keep yours positive while in a professional environment. It’s easy to pick up on negative cues – for example: rolling your eyes or shrugging your shoulders when asked to complete a task will impact your performance. People notice these non-verbal actions. When photocopying, filing, or faxing, try to think about the overall process and how this small task allows bigger tasks to get done. Your supervisor will be more apt to give you larger projects if they know you are enthusiastic about doing the work – even the little things.

Step 5: Take initiative.

One of the best pieces of advice we pass down to our interns is to take initiative while they are here. Don’t wait until you are assigned a task to contribute to your team. Utilize down time to come up with creative ideas or ways to help your department stay organized. Ask questions, take notes during meetings, or even put together a contact list for your co-workers. Take advantage of the time you have; it may be your one shot to prove to the people you are working for that you can be an asset. Don’t waste this time texting with your friends or Facebook-stalking your crush. You can do that later.

Step 6: Ask for feedback.

Although it should be, it’s not always on the top of a supervisor’s list to give an intern feedback on their work. There are times when you will have to reach out and ask for feedback. Constructive criticism is a great tool for improvement. How will you grow if you don’t know how you are performing? It may seem scary at the time, but it’s important to hear feedback from your manager – both negative as well as positive. Hopefully, you will find these tips helpful and they will lead you to receive positive feedback in the future!

Best of luck this fall!


Andrea currently holds the position of Manager of College Relations for Viacom. Viacom is one of the world’s leading creators of entertainment content, with brands that engage and connect diverse audiences across television, online, mobile, games, virtual worlds and consumer products. With more than 160 channels worldwide, Viacom owns and operates favorites including MTV, VH1, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and many others. As Manager, Andrea recruits, interviews, and places intern candidates throughout Viacom’s brands and divisions. She also assists with the planning and facilitation of both internal and external events for the internship program including orientations, speaker/informational forums, and campus recruitment. Andrea is tasked with making and maintaining relationships with students and their schools, as well as the staff at Viacom. Connect with Andrea on Facebook and Twitter and learn more about the Viacom Internship Program.

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