No pay, but still valuable lessons from summer internship

A summer internship is a great way to gain valuable experience to help you land a desirable career.

Editor’s note: Staff writer Jackson Mariotti spent part of his summer completing an unpaid internship. He may not have earned a paycheck, but he did come away with some valuable life lessons. A version of this story originally appeared in The Huffington Post. You can read it here.

By Jackson Mariotti

There are two ways to spend your summer vacation, a fun way and a helpful way. Most people spend the summer doing close to nothing; relaxing the entire day. I, on the other hand, spent my break working 8-hour days at a medical research company. Although I did envy my friends who got to spend their summer by the pool, I was able to learn some very important life lessons.

The internship was at Molecular NeuroImaging, a company trying to find the cure for Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. I worked with data – sending out surveys, receiving the data, inputting it into the system, and filing  the important participants. Although this sounds like pointless work just to keep me occupied, it was actually crucial to the entire operation. The whole program was based around this data and if even one survey was filed wrong or one label was misplaced, it could be harmful to the whole procedure. It was good training because now I am more experienced. I learned from this internship things that aren’t taught in school. There is no class for life lessons, so look for them in everything you do, and you’ll learn a lot.

It would take time and effort to learn everything yourself, so I thought I’d help you out by writing a list of the five top lessons I learned from my summer internship.

1. Be punctual

Whether it is finishing an assignment for the deadline or just meeting a friend or coworker for a meal, punctuality is key. People will respect someone who can keep track of time and progress. It is an essential trait to have, because it will improve both an individual’s social life and their career path.

This trait is especially crucial for high school life. Teachers expect students to be on time for class, students are to turn in assignments not a minute late, and friends want you to be on time for social events. It is not easy to be punctual, but at least make an effort. Plan out the day in advance and do everything ahead of time. It will make life much easier.

2. Treat Everyone with Respect

No matter to whom you are talking to, be respectful. One never can be sure who they will need for help some day so be nice to everyone. One day, it could pay off. It would be a shame if the one person who could help you, was someone you disrespected and were mean to.

Connections are critical to life. A friend in high school or college could eventually be the one getting you a job. Thinking like that, you should show them, and everyone, respect. Not only for connections, but it is courteous. Proper manners show an individual’s manner.

3.  Do Not Be Afraid to Make Mistakes and Ask Questions

Everyone makes mistakes and has to ask questions. That is what makes people human. The most important part is to make sure you do not have to do it again. If you mess up, or don’t know what to do, accept you made a mistake and learn from it. The smartest people are not the ones who make the least amount of errors, but they are the ones who learn the most from them.

The best way to succeed in a class is to ask the most questions. It does not matter whether the teacher or peers get annoyed, if you are ever confused or stuck, just raise a hand. It will be very beneficial. You don’t want to find out on an assessment that you do not understand something very well. The same rule goes with mistakes. If you make an error, do not give up. Look it over, try to find out what went wrong and fix it. If on a test, you get points off, learn from that mistake and get an even higher grade the next time around.

4.     Finish One Project Before Starting Another

At my internship, I worked for two separate groups. Each group would give me an assignment of work that needed to be done. One time I started one and then switched over to the other project. Needless to say, both were not with the best quality that they should have been done with, and neither were finished in time. After that, I learned to always work on one project at a time, and only start something new once I finished. That applies to all areas of life, not just work. One should finish what they are working on before starting something new.

5. Work Hard No Matter What You’re Doing

No matter what aspect of your life you are doing, always work hard in it. Even if it something small and unimportant still work hard. It will help build good work ethic and improve the activity you’re doing. People will notice the effort that you always put in and you will be cast in a good light.

Teachers also appreciate the effort. They notice when a student tries the hardest that they can. It is not always about who is smartest, but mainly it is about who works the hardest. The rule applies from everything from sports to chemistry. Work hard, and never give up. That is how one gets positive results.

No, I did not have the craziest summer, but I learned these five lessons, so it was a valuable summer. Following these rules could one day lead me to a successful life, as anyone else who chooses to follow them also. I’m glad that I was able to have the opportunity to work long days during my vacation.