Internships vary widely in the level of responsibility, number of hours expected, and amount of supervision provided. However, with a little pre-planning, you can make sure your internship is a successful experience.
Before Beginning the Internship
- Think about what you want to accomplish. Do you want to learn new skills, take on specific responsibilities, or simply gain exposure to a specific work environment?
- Determine how many hours you can commit to work each week, and how long you would like the internship to last. Be careful not to over-commit yourself, especially during the academic semester.
- Determine whether you need a paid internship or whether you can accept a volunteer one. Keep in mind that while corporate internships are often paid, many non-profit, government, and educational internships are voluntary.
Preliminary Meetings with Supervisor
- Consider developing a Learning Agreement with your supervisor prior to beginning work. While this document need not be overly formal, it should clarify both your expectations and the supervisor's expectations regarding types of assignments you will handle, work schedule, training and supervisory opportunities, etc. Discussing these issues BEFORE you commit to the internship can help stave of problems and disappointments down the road.
On the Job
- As an intern, you serve as a representative of the organization. Work hard to make a good impression at all times by being professional and diligent.
- Report to work on time.
- Know and follow the office dress code.
- Pay attention to the "unspoken rules" at work, as they are often as important to fitting in as the more formal written rules. For example, is it customary for people to take rigid lunch breaks at noon or is a more flexible break schedule acceptable?
- Clarify when assignments/projects are due and be sure to meet all deadlines.
- Don't be afraid to ask questions - it will increase your knowledge of the organization and demonstrate your interest in learning as much as possible.
- Demonstrate a positive attitude at work - no one likes to work with a complaining, unhappy coworker.
- Make the most of menial tasks by doing them well and without complaining. Virtually all internships (and jobs for that matter) have some mundane components. If you are unhappy with the bulk of your assignments, take the initiative and ask your supervisor about taking on different or additional responsibilities which interest you more. Generally supervisors will be impressed with your initiative and drive.
- Take advantage of being on the "inside" of an organization by talking to other employees and making contacts. You may want to arrange information interviews to learn more about other departments in the organization. Collect business cards - they often come in handy when networking for a full-time job down the road.
- Save copies of things you create for future reference (web pages, flyers, press releases, articles, etc.).
- Seek and accept feedback about your performance, including constructive criticism. Try not to be defensive when a supervisor suggests ways to improve your performance. Request an exit interview to discuss the internship as a whole.
- Ask for a letter of recommendation before leaving the internship. Open a credentials file with Interfolio via Career Services to house the letter if you haven't already done so.
- Write a thank you note to your supervisor when you are finished with the internship.
- Keep in touch with your co-workers and supervisor after leaving the site, as they can often be very helpful as you begin a full-time job search.