Whether you’re going to be paid or working for college credit, any internship you land should be treated as an opportunity to make connections with people in your industry and field of study, and expose you to what you’re considering as a career post-graduation. It makes sense then to prepare for the experience as you would for a new job, fellowship, or academic program. We’ve come up with some tips below on things you should consider when preparing for an internship. It’s important though to consider each internship individually, as internship providers vary greatly in the amount of support and guidance they provide new interns.
Much of what you’d do before starting a new job are things you’ll also have to do before starting your new internship. If you haven’t already, you should have a good idea of the duties you’ll be responsible for at your new position. Make sure that you’re ready to handle those responsibilities, and if any questions remain, the time to ask those questions of your internship provider is now. Make sure you know who you’ll be working with, and contact those individuals directly before you start so that you know what you’ll be doing your first day there. Make sure that if you don’t already, you know a thing or two about the company or organization you’ll be working with, so that you’re not going in to the internship blind. If you’re receiving college credit for the internship, you’ll need to make sure any requisite paperwork is in order, and that you bring along any forms you’ll need filled out by your internship provider.
If you’re leaving home or campus for the experience, you’ll have even more to do. You’ll need to figure out your living arrangements (unless you’re lucky enough to have some assistance with that from your internship provider) and make sure to forward your mail so that you don’t miss any bills or other important post in your absence. You’ll need to figure out your transportation needs, and how you’ll be getting to and from your internship. Depending on the duration of your internship, you may need help moving. Think about all of these practical considerations in the weeks (or even months) prior to the start of your internship to make the transition as smooth as possible.
Your internship won’t be half as useful an experience if you go into it with a negative or even lax attitude. You applied for this position for a reason, right? You should then go into the internship the first day ready to work, get some resume-building experience, and expand your skills. Once you’ve started, think about your duties and responsibilities, and whether they match up with what you were hired to do. If there’s disconnect, you have free reign to talk to your internship provider. You weren’t chosen to get coffee for the office but to add to your skill-set and to determine whether this is the field of study for you. Sometimes, an internship may even lead to future employment, so it’s important to treat the experience as such.
If you’re overwhelmed at your internship, bring that up as well. While it may feel good to have someone trust you enough to give you more responsibility, you also shouldn’t feel as though you’re replacing a regular employee who may be taking advantage of the revolving door of interns. Be open and honest with your internship provider, and you’ll find that it’s easier to meet your own personal goals for the experience. This is meant to be an experience that will open doors for you in the future and will connect you with individuals in your chosen field of study that you may not have had access to otherwise.
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