Internship tips from interns

In my last post, I provided what I consider to be important tips for a successful internship. Today I’m going to share tips from college students as gathered by Julia Carpenter for CNN.

1. Don’t get caught up on money.

If you’re self supporting, it may be hard to take an unpaid internship, but the students who talked with Carpenter said it was worth some sacrifice to get the right kind of experience. Some of them had part-time jobs at the same time as their internship and all of them found ways to economize.

2. Embrace program structure.

I’ll confess I wasn’t sure what this meant until I read the article! What she emphasizes is that interns need to appreciate the structure provided by the internship experience. However, it seems to me that everyone the author spoke with was participating in an internship in a place where there actually was a structured program. Many of my students work in environments where they are the first intern or where the internship varies dramatically from one semester to the next based on both the student’s skills and the work that needs to be done at that time. If she’s suggesting that students look for internships that are highly structured, I think that’s a bit short-sighted. Some of my students have had remarkably valuable experiences in unstructured positions.

3. Find your role and claim ownership of your projects.

This is great advice. What she’s saying is that you want to make sure that your work is making a significant contribution to the organization, and that you’re recognized for that contribution. Think of it in terms of what you can do that you’ll want to put on your resume!

4. Bond with your supervisor.

This is absolutely critical—although not always possible. But at the very least you can pay attention to how your supervisor works, what’s important to him or her, how he or she acts and interacts with others, and you can try to anticipate what he or she may need and provide that if possible.

5. Leave with talking points for your next job interview.

That’s really the whole point of the internship—gain experience that you can put on a resume and use to demonstrate your skills in an interview. It’s useful to maintain a log of what you do as you do it. While you may think you’re going to remember, three months into the internship you’ll be hard pressed to recall what you did during the second week unless you’ve taken notes. Given the ubiquity [look it up!] of behavioral interview questions (e.g., “Tell us about a time when you … .”), keeping track of all your experiences will come in very useful.