07/15/2014 05:58 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Navigating the Office as the Youngest Intern

This blog post was written by Intern Queen Campus Ambassador Hanna Handler from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.


The first day of any internship can be a real nail-biter, but after entering the office and realizing you are the youngest intern, the pressure becomes real. I am going on my fifth week working at Edelman Chicago, the founding office of the world's largest public relations firm in the New Business and Marketing practice, and I still receive daily comments such as, "Wow! What an amazing opportunity!" or "How did you manage to get an internship here?" While the remarks are flattering, it reemphasizes how critical it is for me to create standout work far beyond my colleagues' expectations. As a current student and the youngest intern in the office, I've learned three key lessons:

1) Age is no excuse.

Obtaining an internship at Edelman is no small feat, especially as a soon-to-be college junior. I have yet to meet or hear about an intern at the Chicago office younger than a college grad. Even though my peers are older than me, I know there is no excuse behind age. Instead of being intimidated and comparing our work, I have made an effort to reach out to the other interns and staff who were previously interns, learn about their experiences in their practices, and discuss what they did in college to prepare themselves for work at Edelman.

2) Never stop learning.

The fact that I am a student working in a large-scale office classifies me as a "learner" by default. I am lucky enough to work in an office with such a diverse staff -- people who are openly passionate about their projects and are willing to meet and discuss their work. As a student only half-way done with my college journey, I have embraced this role and taken advantage of shadowing and collaborating on projects outside of my practice with the great minds and leaders just a few cubicles away. Like many universities, my school offers class credit for approved summer internships. This opportunity provides me with additional motivation to log my experiences and lessons learned on a daily basis to look back on later.

3) Be your hardest client.

On a daily basis, I challenge myself to heed all of the internship advice I have gained through my experience as a Campus Ambassador for Intern Queen and from my superiors at Edelman. So far, the best piece of advice that I have received working at Edelman is to always be your hardest client. Similar to any other intern, I am ultimately working to prove that I am capable of eventually becoming a full-time hire in the office. As college grads, my intern peers are in crunch-time, working to get hired in the next couple of months. While this is a definitely a goal of mine, I still have two more years before I get my chance to walk across the graduation stage and enter the "real world" the other interns are beginning.

Additionally, my advice to any intern starting off in a large-scale company, youngster or not, is to take the initiative and make it known by your managers that you are willing to ease their workload and challenge yourself with more sophisticated projects. It is so crucial to form open-communication relationships with your managers because they become the gatekeepers for most of the people you meet with and for the work that you complete. The best way to prove your worth in the office is to keep a calendar log of your projects and to create a "kudos folder" of any praise you receive from your colleagues. Down the road, your age will not matter, but rather your accomplishments and how you formed networks will matter to your future employer.