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Missouri Intern Connect - 1/9/2020

Interning in a brand-new environment can be a bit bewildering! However, rest assured that the old adage is true: There is no such thing as a dumb question! Asking questions doesn’t make you look ignorant — rather, it shows your supervisor that you are committed to truly understanding the topic or project at hand.

That said, here are some practical tips and phrases for navigating questions in a manner that will help you sound like the smart professional you are.

  1. If you have just a small question, or it’s something you know you can find an answer or tutorial on quickly, try looking it up yourself first. Exercise those critical thinking skills! If you’re still having trouble after that, then absolutely ask your supervisor for help.

  2. When in doubt, though, always ask! You may feel like you’re over-communicating, but it could save you from being on the hook for a potentially serious error. You’d rather be saying, “Okay, that’s what I thought, but just checking!” than “Oops, I just assumed…”

  3. Batch related questions when you can. Jot them down on a notepad and ask them all when you already have your supervisor’s attention. This will save you and your supervisor time, plus you won’t have to constantly be running back and forth from your workstation with every small individual thing that comes up.

  4. Swap self-focused questions with task-focused questions. Instead of: “I’m super confused, what the heck am I supposed to be doing?” try something like: “Can you give me some more direction on this project?” See how the difference makes you sound more competent and ready to learn?

  5. It’s totally okay to admit you don’t know the answer to something! However, instead of just going “I dunno,” gracefully avoid a deer-in-the-headlights moment by trying something along the lines of, “I don’t know that off the top of my head, but I can find out for you.” Then find the person who does know, or do the research, and follow up in a timely manner!

  6. Take notes when someone is answering your questions, especially if they’re giving you a tutorial on how to use an unfamiliar piece of software or equipment. You don’t want to forget a critical step or need to ask them to repeat themselves unnecessarily.

With these guidelines, you can start interning smarter, not harder — and sound more capable while you’re doing it. Good luck!