Internship: An official or formal program to provide practical experience for anyone working as an apprentice in an occupation or profession.
*For internships with a formal application process*
Applications open: September
Applications close: November
Decision made: December
Job begins: January/February
Applications open: December
Applications close: February
Decision made: March
Job begins: May/June
Applications open: April
Applications close: June
Decision made: July
Job begins: August
*Local or unpaid internships*
Internships for smaller or local companies offering unpaid internships are usually on a first-come-first-serve basis and don’t follow the general application deadlines.
BEGINNING THE INTERNSHIP
To be a step ahead can be challenging without personal goals. Use this guide to make sure you’re getting the most out of your internship.
Best practices before an internship
Rule of Thumb: Don’t assume you have a job guaranteed following the internship, even if promised.
• Create a checklist of the skills that the internship promises to enrich you in. Which ones do you master and which ones would you like to spend more time on? Communicate these concerns to whomever you’ll be working with.
• Search alternative companies you’d like to work for after your internship (option A, option B, & option C.), and jot down the skills required for those positions. What skills is the internship offering that could be applied at those jobs? What skills do you already have and which ones do you need help with developing?
• Make a wish list/objective list to finish the internship with. Some general examples are:
o Apply a specific technique learned in class.
o Develop knowledge about a specific ability in a work setting.
o Expose yourself to different career paths and/or people.
o Gain access to knowledge or equipment not available on campus.
o Develop self-reliance and personal style.
o Become a responsible and productive individual.
• Read everything you can about the company and even the industry. Try to become familiar with the industry jargon before the start date. You don’t want to be greener than the greenest person ever hired! This gesture alone can help you network sooner with the people you work with.
Best practices during an internship
Rule of Thumb: Don’t assume that all of your assignments will be substantial, but do understand the importance of each task even if it seems like only ‘go-fer’ work.
• Keep a journal and log the time that it takes you to complete each task. Giving yourself short deadlines keeps the momentum going in the work place and ensures proactivity and accountability.
• Create daily to-do lists at the end of the day. When you come in the next day, you’ll know exactly what needs to be done first and helps to anticipate your time management.
• Understand your task and how it fits in with the bigger picture. Don’t just take orders, but aim to predict the next step.
• Ask questions regularly every day. Remember, you’re an apprentice… you’re there to learn! The most helpful types are the ‘why,’ ‘what,’ ‘how,’ and ‘what if’ questions. Challenge yourself with three to five questions a day that would help you put the pieces together.
• Explore your career and take this time to recognize your strengths and weaknesses. Some people may argue that you should focus on your strengths, and others may say to improve your weaknesses, but that’s a decision only you can answer. What’s your ultimate goal? What skills would make you a competitive candidate?
• Get to know your co-workers even if they aren’t working with you directly. The more diverse you become with the people you mingle with, the clearer your role within the company will be. Not to mention, if you have any questions, different departments and divisions can give you different perspectives to ponder on.
• Check off the wish list/objective list that you created before the internship as you progress and use that to update your resume. End the internship strong and full of knowledge!
Best practices ending an internship
Rule of Thumb: Don’t assume this will be the last time you work with the team. The professional world is much smaller than you realize.
• Make a good last impression. How you’re remembered is just as important as the first impression. Always be diligent with your work. The last two weeks may not be as loaded, but take advantage of that time to keep yourself busy in other ways such as offering help to others (even in other divisions).
• Collect all original work to add to a portfolio even if you received help or guidance. Good work shows your exposure regardless of how you got there, but do be honest and give credit to your team!
• Schedule an evaluation date with your manager to ask for feedback on your work, work ethic, work attitude, teamwork skills, time management, etc. Take this time to also discuss any career concerns.
• Prepare a personalized ‘Thank you’ letter to everyone that played a key role in your professional growth during that time. Keep in touch and don’t forget to take them out for coffee once in a while! The people that help you the most are the ones that want the best for you… don’t take this for granted.
When I started my first internship, I wanted everything to be perfect. I would spend long hours working on a project only to present it with endless errors. Then, I’d become discouraged and work under a dark cloud; I’d try to finish my tasks as quickly as possible since I knew it wasn’t going to be right anyway.
When beginning your career, regardless of the field, understand the process of learning. First, you’re an apprentice, then you become dependent while you develop your personal style, and finally, you become a professional. You will trial and error during the ENTIRE process, but don’t forget, it’s not about how you mess up, it’s about how you recover from it. Always maintain a positive attitude that shows that you’re ready to learn and ready to win!
Don’t just intern—Be a pro
Part three of seven