Make the Most of Your Internship
After accepting an internship offer, confirm your start date and work schedule with your supervisor. Clarify the dress code, workplace entry procedures, and other logistics.
Beginning Your Internship
- Be prepared to receive a lot of information in a short amount of time. Take notes, ask questions, and be patient with procedures that may not make sense right away.
- Find out what projects you will work on and the results expected. Share with your supervisor what you hope to learn during your internship.
- Introduce yourself around your office or department. Building relationships with other staff will give you additional resources and people to consult with if your supervisor is unavailable.
- If not specified, ask about break policies, lunch time, and so forth. Your supervisor might have forgotten to share these details and appreciate you asking.
We encourage you to create a Learning Contract with your supervisor. You can revisit this as your internship progresses to help you stay on track.
During Your Internship
- Perform all assignments with care and attention. You'll build credibility by giving your best effort to everything assigned to you, which can lead to more responsibility and involvement in complex projects
- Learn how your work contributes to the organization's mission and goals. Knowing how your tasks connect to other work makes it easier for you to be proactive.
- Seek out feedback on your work and suggestions for improvement. Note that the level and frequency of feedback normally given in a workplace may differ from what's common in academic settings.
- Meet people at various levels of your organization and learn about their roles and experiences. 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.
At the End of Your Internship
- Finish your assigned tasks. Update your supervisor on the status and steps remaining to complete any ongoing projects.
- Ask if your supervisor or someone who knows your work well will serve as a professional reference for you.
- If you're a junior interested in working for the organization after graduation, ask about the possibility of future employment before you leave. Assert your interest and qualifications and inquire about the next step to be considered for a full-time job.
- Send a thank you note to your supervisor and to any other employees who mentored you. Convey your appreciation for the experience and any references written on your behalf.
- Stay in contact with the people you met. An occasional email, phone call, or visit during school breaks can help sustain your relationships with these members of your professional network.
- Review your internship experience: What did you find most fulfilling? What challenged you most? What surprised you? What questions did your internship answer for you, and what new questions did it raise?
Portions of this information were presented during Intern Like a Rock Star (April 6, 2016), a panel discussion featuring internship supervisors Briana Parker, Jane Hirschi, and Katie Averill. Special thanks to the panelists for sharing their recommendations.