It’s mid-Spring and this time of year many college students are applying for their first summer internships. Internships are great opportunities to learn more about a career or an industry of interest. For some students, even though an internship may not be directly related to the field of interest, the internship can provide opportunities to job shadow, learn anindustry and observe a career in action. Internships are learning experiences for the intern therefore, whether free or paid, an opportunity to learn in a real work environment is well worth the time investment.

Since 2010, the Department of Labor has cracked down on organizations to insure college students or graduates are not used as free labor and is insuring they follow the FLSA six question guideline to determine if an internship should be paid or unpaid. As hard as organizations may try to create a great internship experience, sometimes organizations do fall short of expectations. You, as an intern, can pro-actively enter the internship with a strategy to get the most from the experience.


Six Tips To Get the Most From Your Summer Internship

1)     Insure you have been assigned a mentor or preceptor for your internship. Above and beyond the day to day communication you may have, coordinate and schedule specific weekly feedback meetings to discuss what you are learning, where the gaps and strategies to fill the gap.

2)     At the end of every week, make notes of everything you did. Include spreadsheets, formulas, marketing, customer service, meeting attendance, coordinating materials, writing a report, analyzing data, anything you can use down the road when you need to edit your resume. Use action verbs to describe what you did.

3)      Answer the following questions to debrief:

  • What did  I learn this week?
  • What did I truly master?
  • Was there a difficulty? If so, what did I do to recover?
  • What do I wish I had known?
  • What do I need to know for next week?
  • What do I need to do prepare?

4)      List who you are meeting or working with, their titles and any background information you can gather. View their profile on LinkedIn or other social media. Look at their titles and their connections titles if possible. Ask for a LinkedIn connection if appropriate.

5)  Approach the internship as you would a regular job. Use a calendar, take notes, make lists, and prioritize.

6)  Take time to learn the career path within the organization and if possible, the industry. What are the specific job titles within accounting, finance, marketing, etc? What is the entry level title called? Understanding the career progression for a job “family” will be very helpful when searching for real jobs down the road.

Although many organizations do use internships as a tool to possible screen future new graduates for positions, that is not always the case. The best approach is viewing an internship as advancing the ball and arming yourself with as much information to support you when you are ready to apply for your first post-college position.

Need help with your early career management? 

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