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The Intern Diaries: What To Do When You’re Not Getting Any Freaking Assignments

This is one of a series of posts from The Intern Diaries, a summer guest blogging project hosted by Ed. Follow our intern from her first day to her last, and learn more about this crazy exciting industry.  Click here to read more from this season’s blogger.

My first week as an intern was a crucial one. In addition to learning where the freebie table was and memorizing all of my editors’ names, I was getting huge assignments to work on—just kidding.

My first week at my current internship was slow. I spoke with my editors about the things I had experience with and what I wanted to learn more about, but I wasn’t exactly swimming in assignments. It was more like a puddle.

On top of my admin tasks, like getting the mail and making coffee runs, I was given some online articles to write every few days, but that was it. I figured I had two options: I could either wait at my computer all day (or longer) for a single assignment, or I could be proactive and hunt for work.

As you probably guessed, I started hunting for work. I was so desperate for things to do that I decided to use this time to network and share my skill set with the team.

I went to (literally) every single department to introduce myself, shake hands, and offer my help—I even bugged the art and photo team. Even though I was going outside of my comfort zone, I thought reaching out to the staff for work and getting rejected looked better than scrolling through my Twitter feed at my desk.

While some people had nothing for me to do, others were super-thankful for an extra hand. The beauty team, for example, had no intern and desperately needed someone to help them organize. By the end of my first week, I had gone from staring at a blank computer screen to racking up extra hours to complete assignments.

The more tasks I completed for editors, the more work they sent my way. Was it stressful? Sure. But it felt great to know that they thought I was doing a good enough job to keep giving me new things to do. Some days, I felt more like a part of the team than just “the intern.”

When I finally had a handle on all of my new tasks, I scheduled a meeting with my intern supervisor to discuss all of the things I was hoping to learn during my time at the magazine. I thought it was a good way to show her that I was ready for more and wanted to learn new things.

My editor was surprised that I took on so many tasks and that I had enough guts to ask others if they needed anything (She even said that she was impressed!).

While it’s temping to utilize downtime for Facebook (and surfing Ed2010, of course), I learned that going out of my way to find work really scored me some intern brownie points, which is the whole point of an internship, right? Plus, it was a great excuse to bond with my editors and get some insight from on the industry. The networking never ends.

How was your first week as an intern? What are some of the challenges that you have faced when starting your internship? I can’t wait to hear your advice!

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