Current office manager and former intern Courtney Haadsma shares useful insights for future marketing interns.

As I near the six-month mark at TBX and begin my new role within the company, I’ve been privileged to reflect on my time here as an intern. Anyone who has interned before knows the feeling of excitement from getting that first true glimpse into the professional realm. It’s the culmination of the college experience; a truly gratifying step away from the classroom and into the real-world. But the “real-world” can be a subjective term when it comes to the workplace. On my first day at TBX, I knew I had to throw my expectations and preconceived notions of agency life out the window. Instead of stuffy cubicles, there’s an open space plan, plenty of couches and unique coworking spaces, and a kitchen stocked with lots of coffee. Much like the space itself, the team culture is marked by an openness and community-like spirit that promotes a vibrant, energetic work environment.

Thus far, I’ve had the pleasure of watching projects come to life while experiencing each stage of digital marketing. From discovery meetings to strategy sessions, project management tasks to content creation, I’ve witnessed and contributed toward exceptional client solutions. While I’ve primarily aided the project management side of TBX, it’s been great to feel so at home with the rest of the company as well, even after a few short months. Throughout the whole process, I have resolved to listen, learn, and lean in. And if one thing is certain, it’s that I’ve grown more than I could have thought possible.

Not everyone is lucky enough to find a workplace they love, but I’m confident the search is worth every effort.

So, here are four key takeaways I’ve gathered to help any student or recent grad get the most out of their first internship:

Challenge yourself. New things aren’t easy. New cities, new schools, new jobs—they all come with their own set of challenges and hurdles. Learning how to navigate a new role as an intern is no exception. My first day at TBX was equally nerve-racking as it was exciting, and I certainly encountered my fair share of trip-ups and struggles at the beginning. In those moments, I would encourage you to remember that the newness will fade and you will come to find a rhythm in your new role. If you work hard and stay engaged, you’ll look back one day and be glad you stuck with it. Stretching the boundaries you’ve set for yourself in this way is a vital part of growing as an individual—and as a professional.

Don’t disqualify yourself. Here’s an unpopular opinion: It’s perfectly okay to not match the job description. That’s right, you’re allowed to reach. If you only apply to the most suitable positions, you could be passing up on a job that’s a surprisingly great fit. If you’re interested in something you’re not entirely qualified for, then leverage what you do know and show initiative in learning what you don’t. I came to TBX with a background in communications, not marketing. But that didn’t mean I wasn’t prepared to learn what I needed to know. There’s plenty of places where the two fields overlap. It’s simply a matter of connecting the dots. So while you may not have all the necessary skills for your dream job yet, you can start taking steps in the right direction today.

Be honest with yourself. An internship is just as much an opportunity to develop skills as it is a chance for introspection. Ask yourself, Do I enjoy what I’m learning? What do I like about it? What would I like to learn more about? How has what I’ve experienced shaped my career goals? Self-analysis is an often overlooked, but critical component of an internship. In my case, this internship has confirmed that I enjoy what I am doing and I am on the right career path.

Admit what you don’t know and be a self-starter. Commit to learning and asking questions right away. It’s an easy way to express your interest—and it’s the best learning method. On the flip-side, don’t rely on your co-workers to spoon-feed you the answers. Discover strategies to bridge the gap between what you already know and what you need to learn. When I started at TBX, I was not familiar with WordPress beyond the fact that it could be used as a blogging tool. So I began to research and watch tutorials to orient myself with the program. Eventually, when I was assigned my first task to use WordPress as a content management system, I was able to draw on what I learned and add content accordingly. It was exciting to know I was a part of creating the finished product that would soon be shown to the client.

Overall, I’m convinced that a rewarding internship experience is gained through hard work, determination, and an intrinsic desire to better yourself. Thanks to the skills and first-hand experience I’ve received at TBX, I’ve become more valuable as a professional and more confident in my chosen career field. And as I begin my new role as Office Manager, I am honored to be part of this team—a team who is full of life, passion, and a love for what they do every day.

This leads me to my final, most earnest piece of advice (bonus tip #5) : Choose to surround yourself with a team who inspires you to hustle, do your best, but also have a blast while doing it. There is no greater benefit to a job than waking up and feeling excited about the day ahead of you. Not everyone is lucky enough to find a workplace they love, but I’m confident the search is worth every effort. With help from TBX, I have realized that connecting with your company culture is the key to being successful. And when you find an atmosphere that inspires you, it’s easy to be all-in.