One of my favorite things about my internship at the zoo is that there is always so much work! It might sound crazy, and it sort of is, but I love feeling like the work I do is important. Meaning, if I didn't do the work, it just wouldn't get done. People wouldn't know about all of the awesome opportunities and events that happen at the zoo, or at least fewer people would know. However, with so much going on, I sometimes find it hard to balance my needs as an intern with my duties as an employee.
What I mean by this is that as an intern I should be learning and asking questions to further my understanding. As an employee, I feel compelled to help in any way I can, regardless of what I'm getting out of the tasks I'm asked to do. That's not to say that I don't learn from my tasks, but there are certainly things I want to explore that aren't covered. For example, as the new co-PR chair for the university chapter of Habitat for Humanity, I needed to know some specific info about getting media attention. I know now how to write a press release and I feel comfortable with that, but I still wasn't sure when to send out the release or who exactly to send it to within different media outlets.
I put off asking my boss about this for a while, partially because there were more urgent things to take care of and partially because I just didn't want to impose generally. Finally, I realized I needed to go ahead and ask because there was actually a press release I had to send out for Habitat, it was no longer a hypothetical situation. I wrote my boss a quick email, kept it short and simple, and got the response I needed. In fact, I got a slew of wonderful media contacts that my boss has been compiling for years, "gold" he called it. I've only been given permission to use them for my first press release, but they are priceless.
I also asked to sit down and just chat with my boss about his career path and his current position. He honestly does not often eat lunch because he finds it to be a nuisance. That is how busy the zoo is. But we went and grabbed some sandwiches and he was perfectly willing to answer my questions.
Though your supervisor at your internship may seem intimidating, odds are he or she wants to help you learn. That is why you are an intern! In my case, I know that I am doing immense amounts of work and that I'm unpaid. Sometimes I still feel that I owe something in exchange for the amazing opportunity I've been given to work and learn at the zoo. It really is a fantastic job. But when I sit down and think about it, my boss should definitely be inclined to throw me a bone for all my free, hard work! Anyway, I suppose the moral of the story is don't be afraid to ask questions. Your boss, at some point perhaps not so long ago was an intern or in an entry level position, and if he or she is even mildly considerate, your questions will be rewarded.