Making the Most of an Internship

Internships or field experiences (the terms are almost synonymous) are a useful introduction to the job world for several reasons.  First, you get a chance to develop work experience in the kind of career setting you are aiming for.  Second, you make those important personal contacts with people in your career field and with at least one employer.  Third, you will have a source of references from an employer who can describe your abilities and performance to another potential employer.  Fourth, you may be lucky enough to be in an internship at just the moment when your employer is searching for a new worker.  Since you are there and known, you could have an inside edge to that job.  Finally, there are times when students find that the work really is not what they had expected and they do not like the job.  It is better to find out that the job is not for you when you are only committed for ten weeks than after you have committed yourself to full-time employment.  An early quit record from your first career job can be a black mark on your employment history.  Trying out a field is especially important for social science majors who can shift their broad knowledge of human behavior to a different application.

1.  Stay in close touch with your faculty advisor during the work period.  He or she is responsible for seeing that you get a real learning experience that relates to your academic program.

2.  Ask for assignments that are meaningful and related to the purpose of the organization.  You should not be asked to do personal errands or any other tasks that do not seem appropriate to the work setting or to professional career conduct.

3.  Internships are short term.  You can assert yourself without risking your career.  Ask for the kind of experiences you want.  Be aware, however, that there may be qualifications for some of those tasks that you do not yet possess.  Ask what you need to do to prepare yourself for future work in the area.

4.  Think sociologically as you talk to people in all areas of the organization and observe behaviors, dress, the way people address one another, management styles, and worker interaction.  You are an outsider with a chance to look at the organization from the inside for a short period of time.  Would you like to work in a place like this one?  Why or why not?

5.  Make contacts.  Let people know your career goals.  Accept any opportunity you get to meet people from other organizations through the job.  Add these contacts to your file.

6.  Keep notes on the work you do so that you can briefly describe those accomplishments or new skills in your resume' to be used in the search for your full-time job.

7.  Report to your faculty advisor any problems encountered on the job, including inappropriate work assignments, interpersonal problems, and incidents of sexual harassment.  Your faculty advisor or the field experience advisor will help you decide the best course of action, and, if necessary, intervene in your behalf.

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