During An Internship
Making the Most of Your Internship
Congratulations! You’ve got an internship! Now what? Many students make the mistake of thinking that all they have to do now is show up and take it all in. Unfortunately, “It’s just an internship, not a real job” is something we hear all too often. But doesn’t it make sense that if you are going to be spending all that time working, you might as well learn as much as you can? If you prepare, an internship can be an amazing learning experience, can be a great resource for references and can sometimes lead to full-time employment. Pomerantz Career Center Student Internship Manual
Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of your internship:
Set personal goals
Begin your internship with an idea of areas you would like to learn more about, skills you would like to build on and people you would like to meet. Set realistic and attainable goals. Keep in mind that your goals will probably change as you progress through the internship.
Have regular meetings with your supervisor
The initial meeting is a great time to ask about the dress code, your work hours, and what will be expected of you. Once you begin the internship, these meetings are a great opportunity for you to obtain feedback and direction from your supervisor – both positive and negative. Use this time to speak openly with your supervisor about your performance and goals. Take the initiative – if your supervisor isn’t scheduling regular meetings with you, request that they be scheduled. Be sure to schedule a final meeting at the end of your internship.
Maintain a positive attitude and be professional. Have fun!
Chances are, you will probably end up doing some menial office tasks. Approach all tasks with enthusiasm and professionalism. Your ability to successfully complete these menial tasks may be a stepping stone to more responsibility within the office. Say no to negativity! Avoid complaining, being rude, disrespecting your co-workers, and/or not performing your tasks on-time. Treat everyone in the office with respect. A common mistake among interns and new employees is to treat the secretaries and clerks as beneath them – don’t do this! They are often the backbone of the organization.
Immerse yourself – take initiative – do your best work
Employers love interns who jump at the chance to tackle tough problems and can provide unique solutions to their problems. Work closely with your supervisor – share your successes and try not to over-step your boundaries. If you finish projects and have nothing else to do, ask your supervisor and/or other members of your department if they have additional work for you.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions
It will not reflect poorly on you if you ask questions. In fact, it shows that you are interested in doing the best job possible. An internship is a learning experience and while your employer expects certain things from you, they do not expect you to know everything. Seek advice and ask questions whenever you need clarification.
Network! Take advantage of the opportunities that are offered
Finding a mentor within the organization is a major key to a successful internship. A mentor should be your supervisor and/or someone else within the organization. They will watch out for you and make sure that you are given opportunities to learn and accomplish your goals. They will also help you foster relationships with other staff members. Socialize and go out of your way to meet employees in various departments. Take advantage of the opportunities that are offered – try to attend as many company meetings, conferences and events as you can. The more you are exposed to new ideas and new people, the more you will learn. Never burn your bridges – always leave on good terms because you never know when and where you will see these people again.
Keep track of your accomplishments
Start a journal to help you keep track of your accomplishments throughout the internship. This will help you update your resume and/or create or update your portfolio!
Leave on a positive note
Be sure to thank everyone who helped you. Write a formal thank you letter to your supervisor.
Some companies and organizations will have trainings or provide guidance during your orientation that covers their anti-discrimination, anti-harassment, and ethics policies. Others may not.
If something makes you uncomfortable with others' ethics or behavior at your internship, and you do not feel comfortable talking to Human Resources about it, do not hesitate to contact guidance on campus. Discrimination, harassment, aggression and illegal behavior do not belong in the workplace.
Potential people to contact for guidance include:
Your internship course instructor: Not sure if something is serious or not? Your instructor can help you navigate who to talk to at your internship site or on campus, and/or provide coaching on what to say. Please note this is not a confidential resource –if your concerns involve sexual harassment or assault, we will also connect you with the Office of the Sexual Misconduct Response Coordinator.
Pomerantz Career Center (319-335-1023): Ask to speak to the Associate Director of Experiential Education. Similar to your instructor they can help you navigate who to talk to at your internship site or on campus, and/or provide coaching on what to say. Please note this is not a confidential resource –if your concerns involve sexual harassment or assault, we will also connect you with the Office of the Sexual Misconduct Response Coordinator
Student Legal Services (319-335-3276): Student Legal Services can help you understand your rights in a situation as well as what contracts, non-disclosure agreements, and non-compete clauses cover.
Office of Sexual Misconduct Response Coordinator (319-335-6200): The Office of the Sexual Misconduct Response Coordinator (OSMRC) provides a central place to report incidents, works with victims or complainants to ensure their wishes are understood and inform the process, helps them connect with confidential resources and victim advocates, and can facilitate academic accommodations.
The Office of the Ombudsperson (319-335-3608): The Office of the Ombudsperson is a safe place to talk about any concerns, including but not limited to sexual harassment or misconduct, discrimination, violation of policies, and unethical behavior. This is a confidential resource unless you disclose plans to hurt yourself or others.
Local or University police (319-335-5022): If you are in immediate danger, call 911.