You've Landed the Internship, Now What? Making the Most of the Internship Experience
Internship season is upon us, and it is an exciting time for many of our students. Internship experiences have become critical to student success after graduation, providing interns with the opportunity to apply their in-classroom knowledge to the greater community, building on and sharpening the skill sets they already possess. In many cases, the internship experience can seem like a “rite of passage,” or something that students simply “do” because it’s a requirement for a major or it’s what friends and roommates are doing. But internships are more than that – they provide practical learning experiences and serve as fantastic resume-builders.
There are good internship experiences and there are great internship experiences. While the internship itself depends on a number of factors – the work space/environment, the projects, the trust that supervisors have in their interns, coworkers, and the like – there are some factors that you, the intern, can take advantage of to enhance the experience. It involves your performance, your interactions with professionals in the industry, and the feedback you receive. Here are some of my tips for enhancing your internship experience from day one, so that you make the most of your experience and have great things to share with future employers as you continue to build your resume.
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF YOUR SURROUNDINGS
By serving as an intern, no matter the discipline, you have access to a plethora of amazing folks. Between your manager, coworkers, other interns, and colleagues who work closely with your department, there are many new and veteran professionals that you can get face time with, and quickly. Use your status as an intern to set up meetings with your coworkers, with folks in other departments that might interest you, and with your manager. Treat the internship as a mixture of special projects and informational interviews.
When you sit down with professionals in the industry, be sure to ask good questions. Ask them about how they started out, their career path, what they studied in college, what their day-day schedules look like, and what advice they have for new professionals (that’s you!). You’ll quickly learn that the answers to each of these questions will vary widely with each meeting, and will give you a great idea of the industry, what actually goes on in the profession, and if it’s the right place for you.
SHADOWING CAN BE FUN
Building off of the informational interview process, you should take advantage of shadowing professionals in other departments if you are able. Depending on your workload as an intern, you could request a “day off” to work in another department to learn more about the daily duties of similar roles to those in your department. Pre-Nursing students at UAB do quite a bit of shadowing to learn more about the medical profession, and are always encouraged to work with nurses from a variety of specialties to test their knowledge about different areas and gain a better understanding of the nitty-gritty of these roles.
I suggest bringing a small journal with you when you go to shadow other departments, and take note of your surroundings, the atmosphere of the office, the daily tasks that professionals in the area do, and the perspectives of professionals that you come in contact with. This is especially useful if you’re shadowing a handful of departments; keeping a journal to reflect on your experiences will help you to keep your thoughts in order, especially after the internship experience ends. There will be a lot to process!
START WORKING ON YOUR RESUME – NOW
So often – and this happens to both interns and professionals – we neglect our resumes until we’re applying to the next gig. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s so much more effective to keep track of your duties, special projects, numbers and results, and the impact you’ve made as an intern if you’re working on your resume and LinkedIn profile as you move through the internship experience. It’ll help you to remember the smaller details about various projects you’ve worked on, and reflect on the project from different angles. This is crucial because you’ll amplify certain aspects of the projects themselves in different interview and professional settings, so you’ll want to remember as many details as possible. Take some time to mark up and enhance your resume every week, or every other week, and polish it at the end of the internship.
DON’T FORGET THE PEOPLE YOU MEET
It’s easy to neglect the internship experience once the summer ends…until it’s time for the job search. Keep in touch with your mentors, managers, coworkers, and anyone with whom you’ve felt like you’ve built a good relationship. Send them a quick “hello!” email every few months, or schedule a lunch meeting once or twice a semester to catch up and see how things are going in the office, and keep your colleagues apprised of what you’ve been working on, too. It’ll come in handy when you start searching for postgraduate employment, but it’s also simply a good thing to do.
What are some of your takeaways from past internship experiences?
Kimberly White is an academic advisor to pre-nursing students at the University Academic Success Center & Exploratory Advising at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She also serves as a Professional Development Advisor to the Pi Beta Phi Fraternity for Women, Alabama Alpha chapter. She is a recent graduate of the HESA program at Boston College and resides in Birmingham, Alabama. You can find Kimberly on Twitter at @whiteoi, on LinkedIn, or on her blog (Leadership Development and Life in the Yellowhammer State).