As a college student, you should intern with an organization while you work towards a degree. Managing an internship on top of your studies can be challenging; however, you will benefit significantly from it--if you know how to proactively manage it.
Whether your internship is onsite or remote, internships offer many opportunities to expand your network, learn valuable life skills, and gain experience in a professional environment. In spring 2021, I completed a paid internship for credit with Communication@Work LLC, a consulting company that Dr. Craig Engstrom owns and operates. Craig, as he prefers, was my supervisor.
Be Organized (or My 3 Ps)
Be a planner. Time management is the secret to success when interning as a full-time student. Picking up organizational habits is essential for staying on schedule. Studies show that having a weekly planner can improve productivity, relieve stress, and provide a sense of accomplishment. At the beginning of each week, I looked over upcoming tasks and projects and then assigned days to complete each task. Also, I made sure always to check off my 3 Ps: preparedness, punctuality, and professionalism.
Whether you’re in the first week or the last week of your internship, never be afraid to go the extra mile by offering suggestions where appropriate. Constantly ask yourself or your supervisor what more you can do for the organization, especially if you finish a project early and have extra time. You will impress your supervisor and make your interests known to them so that they’ll consider your interests in future assignments.
View your internship as a learning experience. Always seek feedback and be open to learning and improving. Your supervisor is there to guide you and help you get the most out of the opportunity. At the end of each workweek, try writing down (1) what you did well, (2) what you enjoyed the most, and (3) how you can improve next week to accomplish new goals.
Keep in mind that your supervisor is likely very busy and cannot read your mind. You get from the experience what you put it. Initiate conversations, and don’t be afraid to ask for specific types of work that will build your skills and portfolio.
Stay in Touch with Connections
It’s never too early to build your network. I coordinated webinars and sent emails to various professionals. I wrote posts for professional blogs. This work offered me an opportunity to develop professional connections with others in my field. The connections we create now will stay with us for the rest of our lives. So it is crucial to follow up with contacts once a relationship ends. This point is so important that I will share communication strategies for building professional networks before, during, and after college in my next guest post.
Keep a portfolio of your work. By doing so, you can look back on everything you’ve accomplished and see how much you have grown during the experience. A portfolio can consist of articles, spreadsheets, final projects, evaluations, reports, and slide decks of presentations. Remain confident, show your strengths, and always search for ways to best aid your organization. But don’t be afraid to be assertive and let your supervisor know what you would like to experience.
Remember, your employer is there to help you just as much as you help them. Internships should draw upon and highlight your specific skills while building new skills and a professional profile. If you adapt to your company, they will likely adapt to you and your career interests.
Morgan McCullough is a Senior at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX. She is majoring in Public Relations and Journalism and interned for Communication@Work LLC.
To learn more, connect with her on LinkedIn!
I am an instructor of business communication at SIUC. Connect with me on LinkedIn.