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12 Steps to Making the Most of your Internship Written by Nayesha Pruitt, Graduate Student

InternshipIllustrationSo, you’ve secured an amazing internship?  Here are 12 easy steps to making the most of your internship experience and showing future employers that you’ve taken initiative in developing your skills.

  1. Observe and absorb. You can learn a lot from an organization by paying attention to office culture. If there’s a department or staff meeting, plan on attending to see how the members of the organization interact with each other. Listen and take notes for the things for which you might need clarity later.
  2. Ask questions. Your internship is a learning experience. You aren’t expected to know everything, so seek advice and ask questions whenever you’re faced with something uncertain or unexpected.
  3. Schedule meetings with your supervisor. This is a great way to get any questions that you might have answered. You can also report back on progress of any assignments that you might have. Ask for feedback about your performance. Find out what your supervisor may be working on, and see if there is any way that you can learn from their projects as well. Be sure to thank your supervisor for giving you an opportunity to prove your worth to the organization.
  4. Set goals. Your goals may change as you learn about the organization, but it always helps to have an idea of what you want to accomplish.
  5. Do your research. Along with asking questions, doing research ensures that you have a focus during your meetings with your supervisor. Find out as much about your internship organization as you can, and ask questions for clarity. You may even find a focus for your work during the internship and in your career.
  6. Gain trust. You’ll have to prove yourself. Show that you pay attention to detail and follow instructions, even when you’ve been handed the most mundane task. Someone will take notice and may give you more freedom in creating or heading projects.
  7. Be professional. Even though you might not be getting paid (hopefully you are!), you’re still on someone else’s dime during the workday. Stay off of your phone and avoid using social networking sites, unless it’s part of your job.
  8. Use your resources. You can learn a great deal of information by talking to your co-workers. Find out how they got into their field, why they like it, and what advice they can offer to someone just getting started. Take advantage of networking opportunities at your internship and in your school and community.
  9. Dress appropriately. Dress for the part you want to play. Organizations have different rules when it comes to appropriate work attire. Find out what the rules of your organization are and stick to them.
  10. Attend job fairs. You may be in your internship now, but eventually you’ll need a job. See what employers are looking for, and practice your interviewing skills. The Career Development office here at NLU is a great resource for resume writing, job searches and job fairs. Be sure to collect business cards, and write down a company’s open positions on the back. You’ll have a head start on what type of jobs are out there in your field.
  11. Be open-minded. A positive attitude and the willingness to be flexible go a long way. You may not always do the things that you find meaningful, but employers pay attention to how you respond to and perform even the smallest tasks.
  12. Enjoy the journey. Your time at your internship is limited. Instead of counting down the days until it is over, be present for each and every learning experience. Re-frame your way of thinking from I can’t wait for this to be over to This is a great learning opportunity and I’m going to make the most of it!

Danielle Laban

About Danielle Laban

Danielle is the Director of Student Experience at National Louis. She's an experienced student affairs professional who is focused on student success. Danielle earned her Bachelor of Arts at the University of Northern Colorado and her Master of Arts at Roosevelt University.