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Six Tips to Help You Stay Focused,
Humble, and Passionate While Doing
Internship “Grunt” Work

If you just snagged a great internship, don’t be surprised if it ends up being less glamour and more grunt work. But entertainment industry leader Emily White says that no matter how menial your tasks, there still is much to be learned. Here she offers six essential tips to help you stay motivated and get the most out of your internship experience.

You landed a great internship and couldn’t wait to get started. But as it turns out, your internship is not as glamorous as you thought it would be. In fact, most of your time is spent on menial tasks like picking up the coffee and running errands. It may seem like the work you’re doing doesn’t really matter. But CEO, entrepreneur, and interning expert Emily White says your ho-hum responsibilities are more important than you think.

“Don’t be discouraged if your internship workload seems less exciting than you expected,” says White, cofounder and CEO of Whitesmith Entertainment and author of the book Interning 101 (9GiantStepsBooks; 2017; ISBN: 978-1-537-54764-0; $15.00; “The work you’re doing really is important and you are an essential part of the team, even if your biggest challenge is taking out the recycling on time. And believe it or not, you really could learn a thing or two from the grunt work you’re asked to complete.”

White, a deeply respected thought leader in the entertainment industry with business locations in New York and Los Angeles, credits her early success to the many internships she did during college. She has some crucial advice to help you stay motivated – even while doing “grunt” work. Keep reading for six tips to keep you inspired and at the top of your game throughout your internship experience.

Pay attention to the little things... If you’re asked to get coffee and there are certain details involved, do it perfectly. Although this is a cliché task, companies start interns out with level-zero tasks. Why? They want to ensure that you can do what is asked of you, down to every detail. If you mess up your supervisor’s coffee, how can they trust you with higher-level details?

“Our company starts interns out with database entries,” says White. “We clearly state in our handbook to copy and paste data entries so errors are not made. When we go to grab a contact and pitch a client and get a bounce-back, we know that the intern didn’t take their task seriously. Additionally, that sloppy entry may result in a bounce-back hours later, when it’s the end of the day. I prefer to pitch people on Tuesdays. On Wednesdays, I’m often out at meetings. Due to the sloppy entry, the pitch may not go out for the client until a week later. The lesson here: Small details are really important.”

...And see the big picture. No matter your task, do it to the best of your ability. Don’t be above anything. Everything you do should be taken seriously, no matter how trivial it seems. “To stay focused on even the most basic tasks, think about how your task fits into the big picture of the company,” says White. “I guarantee that everything you do has real impact and plugs into the overall success of the company.”

Use your downtime effectively. Many interns are surprised when they aren’t given much to do. That’s okay! You still have a chance to learn something important. Listen, look, and observe all that is going on around you. You’ll find out what to wear, pick up industry terms, and learn how to behave in an office setting. “This is crucial information that you literally cannot learn in college,” says White.

Be present (outside of regular work hours). Whenever possible, say yes to attending any industry or company events you are invited to. You want to show your new colleagues your passion and can do so simply by showing up. If you’re not invited, find a quiet moment to ask your supervisor if you can attend and help out in any way. Once you’re there, don’t forget to help out!

“One important piece of advice for any work event: No matter your age, not drinking at work functions is always the best option,” says White. “Be the sober person who takes it all in, learns as much as possible, and remembers everyone’s names. This is a good rule of thumb even when you’re not an intern!”

Think it through. Before asking questions, try figuring out a task on your own first. A lot of the time, most of the information you need is already there or can be found by simply looking it up. You will feel a greater sense of accomplishment for tasks you were able to complete by yourself. If you are truly stumped, then you can ask your supervisor.

“Wait until late in the day or a quiet moment to ask your supervisor for help,” advises White. “Do not ask first thing in the morning or the middle of the day when your supervisor is most likely slammed. This mindfulness and awareness of time will get you far.”

Take care of yourself. When you’re tired mentally or physically, it can be hard to stay focused and do your best work. White suggests trying meditation and/or exercising before you come to work. This will ensure you’re fully energized, focused, and can tackle all tasks to the best of your ability.

“Also, try to get as much sleep as possible,” advises White. “This will keep your mind sharp and help you to stand out above and beyond all.”

“The most important lesson to take away is that all internships are priceless opportunities despite the inevitable grunt work,” concludes White. “You’re not going to take over the company overnight, but this is your chance to develop a rock-solid work ethic and learn everything you can about your industry. If you can show your supervisors and coworkers that you’re quick, smart, and conscientious, you’ll ace your internship and walk away with a great reference, a set of contacts in the industry, and maybe even a job offer.”

About the Author: Emily White launched her first company, Whitesmith Entertainment, with business partner Keri Smith in 2009. Based in New York and Los Angeles, Whitesmith has overseen the careers of countless musicians and comedians to global acclaim, resulting in Grammy-nominated albums and Emmy Award-winning writing. Whitesmith expanded into sports in 2012. Working with some of the best athletes in the world, White co-founded tech start-up Dreamfuel, supporting athletes and receiving unsolicited press in major media.

About the Book: Interning 101 is Emily White’s debut book. The book is available for $15.00 at,, and

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