As a new semester begins, many students will launch their professional careers with internships. For undergraduates and graduate students without related work experience, internships are an integral part of the Tisch Center experience and they are meaningful for many reasons.
Internships enable you to try out different areas of your industry and explore various work environments while you are still in school. The skills you develop not only help to build your resume, but also allow you to gain valuable exposure for your eventual job search. Furthermore, internships provide self-insight into your likes and dislikes, helping you to define your career path. The contacts you develop through your internships can turn into lifelong mentors and future employers.
Also, internships are a two-way street for both you and the employer to determine fit. Many organizations view their interns as future hires pool and evaluate their potential over the course of the internship. It is a learning experience for both sides to determine if this can be a long term relationship.
Making the most of your internship is a vital part of your professional growth. Even if you determine that you would not like to work for this company after graduation, you never know how the relationships that you develop will benefit you in your future career. Read some of the tips below to help lead to internship success:
Before the internship:
- Research the organization thoroughly to learn as much as possible before you begin: explore the website and become familiar with the mission/goals.
- Plan your transportation route in advance so you can allot the appropriate amount of time for your commute
- If you are unsure about dress code, ask your supervisor in advance about the expectations.
On the job:
- Define your goals and determine the areas you want to improve. Do you want to enhance your writing or accounting skills, learn to create a website or work directly with clients?
- Be realistic regarding your responsibilities. Many interns start off with “menial” tasks and move on to greater assignments after they have proved themselves.
- Be prepared to jump right in and take initiative without much training or supervision.
- Be on time and expect to arrive early and stay late when necessary.
- Always be sure to pitch in and show that you are a team player. If your supervisor does not have enough work for you, ask others how you can help.
- Observe your supervisor and colleagues and follow their lead for professional dress.
- Conduct yourself professionally at all times: do not make personal phone calls, e-mail, etc. during work hours. Even if staff members do so, remember that you are not a full time employee and you are being evaluated.
- Do not be afraid to ask questions to clarify expectations, but do not distract your manager with minutia. Interns are generally not assigned tasks that are too difficult to handle—have confidence in your abilities.
- Show initiative by taking on challenging projects.
- Meet as many people as possible across departments and collect business cards. Ask for informational interviews with all professionals of interest.
- Become part of office culture by taking part in events outside of work.
At the end of the internship:
- Keep copies of your work for your professional portfolio: reports, articles, projects, etc.
- Ask your supervisor for feedback. In addition to an evaluation required for academic credit, informal feedback on your performance can help you to improve.
- Send thank you notes to your supervisor(s) and other close colleagues letting them know you appreciated the opportunity to intern with their organization.
- Stay in contact. Email colleagues and supervisors periodically updating them on your academics. Ask for feedback on your resume and check in about how they are doing. Building these relationships lays the groundwork for your professional network, sometimes leading directly or indirectly to post-graduation positions.
At the Tisch Center, many of our students have been making the most of their internships all summer. Read on to hear about some of their experiences!
Jennifer Bobrow Burns is Director of Industry Relations and Administration at the Tisch Center. She has published several books including, most recently, Career Opportunities in Travel and Hospitality, published by Checkmark Books.