Congratulations! You found an internship. Here comes the fun part.
Internships are a great way to practice being an adult: you get to manage your life in the way you choose, decide what career areas to explore, and work alongside professionals in your chosen field. However, this newfound flexibility can be an adjustment, and navigating it for the first or second time can be a challenge. Here, I give ten easy-to-follow tips in order to ensure you have a successful summer internship.
- Set Goals
Goal setting is a tool that you will take with you throughout your life. At the beginning of your internship, it is important to establish some guidelines and specific goals that you hope to accomplish over the summer. Having concrete goals in mind will increase the likelihood they will be completed and will improve your overall satisfaction with your internship experience. Write your goals down and be sure to revisit them periodically over the summer to see if you are on target or if your goals change based on what you are learning.
- Say “Yes”
During your summer, there will be moments when you can take on more responsibility. Take the initiative and say “yes.” Even though summer is a time to relax and wind down from the hectic school year, challenging yourself in a work setting is important when learning about yourself outside of a school setting. The more you say “yes,” the more experience you will have in the field. With that said, do not take on more work than you are able, but try your best to challenge yourself without sacrificing your emotional or physical well-being.
- Communicate with your Supervisor
Last summer, one of my friends interned at a nursing home. After working there for two days, she was placed on a project that she did not enjoy and realized that she was dreading her work. With her advisor, she discussed alternative projects that she could work on, and her advisor accommodated her.
In this case, my friend’s internship was flexible and she was able to pivot projects. This may not necessarily be the case with everyone’s role, so it’s important to “read the room,” and assess how/if you can change things up if your experience is not meeting your expectations. The key takeaway here is to communicate with your supervisor – about what you want to learn, if you want more responsibility, when things are challenging for you, or if you need help.
- Manage your time wisely
There may be a point in your internship where you feel like you have too much on your plate. Communicate with your supervisor and ask how to best prioritize your time and follow their advice. Try making a schedule and keep yourself accountable for sticking to it.
- Be a sponge.
As a college student, there is so much you can learn outside of the classroom; after all, that’s why internships exist! Different roles have different levels of responsibility, but no matter the context, try to soak everything up. Be a sponge. Go to every meeting you are invited to and if your supervisor doesn’t think to invite you, ask if there are certain meetings you could attend, so you can learn more. Take in the environment and the way the coworkers interact with each other. Eventually, you will want to ask yourself: is this the kind of environment I aspire to work in? Am I motivated by this work?
- Bring your unique experiences and perspectives to the table.
Everyone has something unique to bring to the table – whether that is a special aptitude or skill, a unique perspective, or an ability to communicate with ease. When possible, try to bring your strengths and perspectives to the table. This will allow you to feel confident in your contributions to the internship and will leave a lasting impression.
- Keep track of your projects.
Summer is a hectic time when so many things are going on. Try to take some time to reflect and note all of the progress you have made on all of your work. This will allow you to remember all of the progress you made this summer and will make it easier to talk about it when it comes to future interviews.
- Talk to everyone.
Networking: How frightening! In practice, networking does not have to seem as daunting as you may initially think. It is important to maintain good relationships with those with whom you work – may that be coworkers, advisors, or even people working in other divisions of the organization. Internships are a fantastic opportunity to meet people and make long-lasting business connections.
Ask your supervisor or other contacts for a quick 10-15 minute conversation about their paths. While it is possible they may not respond or have time, many people love passing on their wisdom and enjoy speaking about themselves.
- Say “Thank You”.
A lot of work and time went into mentoring you and preparing for your internship. Once your work is winding down, make sure you give proper thanks to those who helped you most. This could mean something as simple as a thank you note, or even buying them a small gift to express your gratitude.
- Keep in touch!
Keep in touch with your supervisor, your coworkers, and other employees to follow along on the progress of your project. This will allow you to speak about it more concretely in interviews and you can see the lasting impacts of your work.
By Noel Ermer
Noel Ermer ‘23 is a senior at Middlebury College studying Biochemistry and Spanish. During her time at Middlebury, she has received two summer funding grants and has worked for the CCI since May 2020. After graduating, Noel will be moving to the DC area to work as a management consultant analyst at Accenture Federal Services.