Make the Most of Your Internship

Prepare to make the most of your experience using these tips for before, during, and after your internship. 

This resource covers the professional aspects of internships. For an in-depth resource to help you navigate the personal aspects of a summer internship — finding an apartment, learning how to cook, grappling with culture shock, and more — students are encouraged to read our Internship Resource Kit here.

Before you start

Communicate with your supervisor before starting your internship. Here are some ideas to get your started:

  • Offer to complete background reading or other preliminary work to increase your understanding of the organization or current projects;
  • Establish realistic goals and identify potential internship projects;
  • Set dates, hours, compensation (if applicable), and any other pertinent logistical components of your position; and
  • Ask to speak to previous interns so you can hear a first hand account of their experiences.

Do first impressions count? Think back to the first time you met a roommate, a professor, or a boss. Impressions may change, but getting started in your internship on the right foot will only stand to benefit you from day one.

During your internship

Make a Good First Impression: Be prompt, dress appropriately, and be personable. Learn the organization's rules, both formal and informal, and follow them. Approach your work with a positive attitude. Consider your supervisor's and other staff members' time when seeking help on assignments.

Learn Everything You Can: Acclimating to an organization and its operations is not always easy. As an intern, you will have access to information from which and people from whom you can learn. Take advantage of these opportunities: volunteer for projects; develop new relationships; and discover new ways to get work done.

Define Your Position: After the first two weeks of your internship, meet with your supervisor to outline both your supervisor's and your goals for the internship. Complete a learning contract designed to help you and your supervisor articulate concrete projects and goals for the internship.

Common Situations: For any job or internship, you may find yourself without projects from time to time, doing simple tasks like photocopying, changing a boss or co-workers, switching to different projects, disliking the field or company, and many more.

Helpful Responses: First, take a step back, critically reflect upon the issue, and see if there is any way that you can change your actions to alleviate the situation. Remember that projects that appear boring may be critical to the company and an important learning opportunity for you.

Be Proactive: If you finish a project, tell your supervisor and if appropriate, suggest a project you could work on. If there is still little work for you, use the time to learn from co-workers, ask to sit in on meetings, observe the interactions of those around you, and read work-related materials. If any problems arise with family emergencies or with co-workers, be sure to communicate with your supervisor and Human Resources. Also feel free to contact the CWS for additional support.

After your internship

Follow-Up: Thank your supervisor and any other mentors in the company for hosting you this summer. Make sure you check-in periodically with any supervisors with whom you had a positive relationship – they will be the ones serving as a reference when you apply to future jobs or internships.

Tanner Conference: Consider presenting at the Tanner Conference. The conference will provide a venue for you to reflect critically upon, analyze, and share your experience with others in the college community.