Make the Most of Your Internship
After accepting an internship offer, talk with your supervisor to confirm start date and hours. Ask about the dress code, and if you'll need an ID for security.
During your first days, clarify expectations with your supervisor:
- Find out what projects you will work on and what results are expected.
- Discuss what you hope to learn, and ask if your goals are realistic.
- Ask how interns are evaluated, as regular, substantive feedback is essential to your learning process.
These items can be recorded using a Learning Contract, which you and your supervisor can review as the internship progresses.
Offer to pitch in where needed and perform all assignments with care. Routine administrative tasks are often part of an intern's duties, but you can learn a lot by being part of the environment, even if you're not working on a major project. Work efficiently and you'll have more time to volunteer for new projects. Give your best effort to everything you're asked to do, and you'll be more likely to secure a strong reference and be given more responsibility.
Try to meet people at all levels of your organization and learn about their experience. They may offer advice and ideas informally, or you may arrange more formal informational interviews. Ask for the business cards of those you meet and follow any advice or leads they offer. Write a thank you note after an informational meeting and stay in touch, perhaps by sending a link to an interesting article, news of an upcoming conference, and the like.
Developing professionalism and workplace etiquette is valuable part of your internship experience. Avoid conducting personal business at your internship. This includes phone conversations, emailing, texting, or making after-work plans. If something urgent arises, let your supervisor know as soon as you can.
At the End of Your Internship
- Finish all responsibilities and tie up any loose ends. Leave your workspace in order.
- Ask your supervisor or someone who knows your work well for a letter of reference. Make this request while still on-site and your performance is fresh in mind.
- If you're a junior interested in working for the organization after graduation, bring up the subject of employment before you leave. Assert your interest and qualifications and inquire about the next step to be considered for a full-time job.
- After you leave, send a thank you letter to your supervisor and to any other employees who served as mentors. Convey your appreciation for the experience and any references written on your behalf.
- Stay in touch with the people you met. An occasional email, phone call, or visit during school breaks will enable you to nurture your relationships with these members of your professional network.