If you’re gearing up for an internship this summer, you are not alone. Aspiring STEM professionals know that experiences in actual workplaces are important for finding mentors, making decisions about career directions, and gaining practical workplace skills. Whether you are anticipating an on-site or a remote experience, an internship can be an important step along your path. Here’s how to make the most of it.
Start preparing now. Read as much as you can about the organization and the roles filled by the people you will be working with. What are their jobs and how will you fit in? Take notes and be ready to ask informed questions when you get there.
Be enthusiastic and curious. When you start, bring a can-do attitude and an open, curious mind. No one expects you to know everything — you are there to learn.
Introduce yourself. Meeting the other people in your department and beyond is important not only for the knowledge they can share but also for future networking. Ask how you can assist your co-workers. If your internship is virtual, you can do this via email.
Be professional. Show up on time, dress appropriately, and be mindful of etiquette in person and on email. Always be courteous and address co-workers and managers appropriately.
Work hard, stay organized, and keep busy. When you complete assignments, ask for more. Interns who show enthusiasm about even routine tasks make themselves memorable.
Keep track of your projects. Logging what you’ve done will pay off in building your portfolio and your resume and will lay the groundwork for reviewing your internship with your supervisor.
Request informational interviews. Being an intern makes you an insider. This is a great chance to ask people in the organization to meet for coffee and describe what they do, how they like it, and how they got the job. What is their background? Remember, you are not looking for a job in this interview — just knowledge. Ask each person to look at your resume and give you advice (you don’t have to take it). Also ask if they can suggest anyone else you could talk to at this organization or beyond. You never know what can happen if you step up and ask for opportunities.
Reflect on your experience. Even if there is no formal review process, at the end of the internship be sure to ask your supervisor for feedback. Here your project log will be a good basis for discussion. Then do a personal review of the internship. What did you learn? Use this reflection to build your resume. Even if you learned that this field is not for you, you had a worthwhile, career-building experience.