How do I make the most
out of my internship?
Share Your Learning Objectives
We require that you share your Learning Objectives with your Supervisor. This will help start a conversation about what your internship will and will not include. One of the most common problems that interns encounter is finding out that their expectations don’t match their Supervisor’s. Having a conversation about your objectives at the beginning of your internship gives your supervisor an opportunity to let you know if your expectations are not in line with theirs. Finding this out up front can help you craft more realistic objectives and avoid disappointment down the road. And often a supervisor will say, “I didn’t know you were interested in learning that; I’ll make sure to include that in your internship.”
Set a Regular Meeting Time with Your Supervisor
Setting and keeping a regular meeting time with your supervisor is vitally important step in ensuring a successful internship. Misunderstandings about a supervisor’s availability can be a common source of friction. Supervisors are generally frustrated by interns who pop over to their cubicle seven times a day to ask questions. Similarly, interns are vexed by supervisors who are too busy to help them out. An easy solution is to set and keep a regular meeting time. Supervisors are busy people whose calendars fill up fast, so you need to be sure that you’re on that calendar.
As soon as you start an internship, pick a time that works for both of you—for example, 45 minutes every Monday or an hour every other Friday. And be sure to set longer or more frequent meetings in the first couple weeks of your internship because that’s when you’re most likely to need assistance and training. In general, you should never be afraid to ask questions during your internship. Supervisors respect engaged learners who show curiosity. But be mindful about how often you interrupt your supervisor for help. Sometimes it is more appropriate to keep a list of questions to ask at your regular meeting.
Attitude Shapes Everything
Attitude has a huge impact on your experience, and it can make or break your internship. You should be willing to help out in any way you can. If your internship duties change, be flexible and don’t feel confined by your written learning objectives and your initial expectations. In the same vein, you should show initiative and be proactive about volunteering for new projects and tasks. If you show your supervisor that you’re flexible and hard-working, they’ll be more likely to view you as a potential future employee. You should think of your internship as one long job interview.
Demonstrate all of the qualities that would be desirable in an employee. Show up on time, communicate clearly, work hard, ask questions when you don’t understand, take responsibility, and show initiative. When supervisors talk to us, they rarely complain about a lack of technical skills. More often, they complain about a lack of professionalism. Even if your employer doesn’t hire you after the internship, they may act as a reference or they may have information about jobs at other companies.
Talk to People!
Some people say the most useful thing about their internship was the opportunity to network and meet professionals in their field. When you’re at your internship, be social and friendly, and see if there are opportunities for you to attend professional events like seminars and conferences. Consider creating a LinkedIn profile and asking your co-workers to join your network. Maybe they’ll think of you the next time they hear of a job opening or some other great opportunity!
Be Aware of Office Norms
Offices have differing norms regarding technology. Many students like to have Facebook running in the background and take personal cell phone calls at their desk. In some offices, this behavior is commonplace and perfectly acceptable. In others, it is viewed as tremendously unprofessional and distracting. You should be aware that there is something of a generation gap in attitudes about the use of technology in the workplace. A successful intern will quickly determine and follow the norms of their particular office.
Similarly, you will want to learn and follow office norms regarding dress. Sometimes clothes that are very fashionable on campus are wildly out of place in offices where the majority of employees dress in business casual or more formal attire. Take your cues from the office’s professional staff rather than from your fellow interns.
Remember that It’s Temporary
If you get there and realize the internship isn’t a perfect fit, remember that it’s only temporary. Get what you can from the experience. Remember that it can still be a good opportunity to network, and it may lead to your next internship or job. Sometimes the greatest lesson to learn is what you don’t want.