Maximizing your experience
When you begin your internship there are several steps you can take to insure that you maximize your experience.
Consider the following tips and suggestions to develop your professional skills and have a successful internship.
Ways to maximize your experience:
Establish learning objectives
Identify three to five learning objectives in conjunction with your supervisor. These learning objectives can address:
- Information you hope to gain about the organization and/or industry.
- Skills you hope to apply and develop in your job.
- Development of professional competencies that lead to future career success.
If not offered, ask to schedule regular meetings with your supervisor. This is a great opportunity to give and receive updates on work assignments, reflect on your learning, and receive feedback on your performance.
Evaluation and feedback
If not offered, ask for an evaluation mid-way through the internship, and for a formal evaluation at the end of the internship. Feedback is an important and valuable way to make improvements in your performance and continue to progress in your role.
Manage your projects and assignments efficiently. Be prepared to take notes during any meeting with your supervisor and with other staff. Document and retain important details of your conversations, any action items you need to complete, and note deadlines. Be sure to follow up and close the loop on your projects and assignments. See Project Management Worksheet example.
Practice professional communication skills with team members, co-workers and your supervisor. This includes expressing thoughts and ideas effectively through oral, written, and non-verbal communication, and utilizing listening skills. Be aware of the communication culture in your work environment. Follow up and communicate regularly with your supervisor to provide updates on your progress with work assignments. Never be hesitant to ask questions to make sure you fully understand what you need to do your work and to contribute to the success of the organization.
Network with your co-workers and learn from them. Ask them about their careers, how they got started, what they find exciting and challenging about their jobs, and seek out their advice.
Having a mentor is said to be one of the most important keys to success. A mentor provides support and guidance, and is invested in your future. This is beneficial at any stage in your career. The relationship could be short- or long-term, formal or informal; regardless it can have a lasting positive impact as you navigate new experiences and challenges.
Some employers will match interns and new hires with a mentor. If not, you can independently seek a mentor. Get to know a variety of more experienced colleagues, and look for a fit with someone who is responsive to you and shows professional interest in you, and where the development of the relationship is a two-way street. You will likely find, if you seek it, many people whose experience and wisdom you can learn from. If a colleague has the title, position, or experience that you aspire to achieve, seek that person's advice.
Benefits of mentorship
A mentor can...
- Provide career/industry/major insight, generally from personal experience.
- Assess your strengths and areas of growth, as well as help you develop skills for success and a long-range career planning.
- Serve as a role modeling for professional leadership and facilitates the development of interpersonal skills.
- Be a support system during critical stages of your academic and/or career development.
- Give an insider’s perspective on navigating your career.
- Build your professional and personal network
- Link you to a future opportunity you may have never even considered.
Through mentors’ expertise and with time they help expand your horizons and increase your chances of success. Individuals who have mentors also report having higher job satisfaction.
Document and keep records
Document your experience. Maintain a record of assignments, projects and achievements and keep copies of performance evaluations. Consider keeping a journal of your experience or collect all your information in a portfolio. Ask your supervisor if you can give a formal presentation about your experience at the end of your internship. Make sure the check with your supervisor regarding what assignments and projects are appropriate to share with others.
Develop and practice professionalism
- Be prompt and on time to work, meetings and other office functions.
- Use your time productively at work. Focus on your job responsibilities and avoid getting pulled into social media, web browsing and phone activity while on the clock.
- Project a professional presence and dress appropriately. A good rule of thumb is to dress in the position you aspire to have. Ask your employer about dress codes expectations.
- Take the initiative. Ask for more projects to be given to you or think about and discuss with your supervisor assignments that will meet your learning objectives. You don’t want to be under-utilized.
- Maintain effective work habits. Prioritize, plan and manage your assignments and projects.
- Manage your time efficiently. Establish priorities, set goals and create action plans to meet deadlines.
- Be accountable for your work and actions while behaving ethically at all times.
- Produce work and results that reflect a sense of pride and professionalism, often exceeding expectations.
- When you run into problems and obstacles take the time to brainstorm a few solutions and alternatives before you meet with your supervisor.
- Be resilient. Develop coping skills to manage setbacks and challenges with a positive and constructive attitude.
Tips for a successful internship:
- Follow the rules at all times. Read through your employee manual (if there is one) and make sure you understand all the policies and procedures.
- Prove yourself to be dependable and trusted early on through consistency in your actions.
- Pay attention to office culture. Observe how others behave, interact with others and communicate with each other. Model those who do so successfully.
- Attend all business functions and participate in office events and traditions. For example: contribute to the office pot luck, join in on office games and activities, and attend networking and team-building activities.
- Take your work and assignments seriously, even if it seems like a menial task. Recognize how it plays into the bigger picture of the organizations goals.
- Ask for feedback and use it. Make it easy for your supervisor to give you constructive feedback because this is how you will learn, grow and improve through your experience.
- Own up to your mistakes. Don’t make excuses; everyone makes mistakes and we all learn from them.
- In the event that your internship is not going well and not meeting your expectations, remain professional and do not burn any bridges. You may still need a reference from that internship. Reach out to Career & Professional Development and share your experience and ask for advice if needed. Try to stay positive and focus on what you are learning from the opportunity, even bad experiences inform on career and professional goals.
- Say "thank you!" Show appreciation and gratitude for the opportunity by writing thank you notes or bringing in a special treat for your co-workers. Ask if your supervisor would be willing to serve as a reference for you. Provide an updated version of your resume for your supervisor's reference.