Practical Advice for Internship Success

During my sophomore year, I saw many of my friends applying for and securing internships. At the time, I was stressed out about finding an internship and avoided thinking about it as much as possible. I didn’t know where to find one, whom I would be working with and what I would be doing. This fear of the unknown caused me to push off my internship search until my junior year. Through my internship here in the Career Center, I have learned that internships are amazing opportunities to meet people and make decisions about one’s career path. I wish that I had started my internship search much sooner and that I hadn’t been afraid of the unknown. Who knows what opportunities I missed because my fear held me back? This article contains practical advice to help you make your internship search and experience as smooth as possible. Many thanks to Matt Pouss, the Career Center Internship Coordinator, for offering his expertise and advice in each of the following areas.

Internship Search:

Finding an internship is similar to finding a job—it requires a lot of time, effort and patience. I asked Matt Pouss for the most important piece of advice he gives about internship searching. He says, “Be patient, be purposeful, be organized and lean on the support available to you. Don’t forget to learn from the search process itself.” Soon enough, you will be searching for jobs, so learn as much as you can from the internship search. Also, make sure that your resume, cover letter and professional networks, such as LinkedIn, are up to date so you are ready to apply when you find an internship.

There are so many internship search engines out there that it is hard to pick just one. Nevertheless, Matt recommends using the search engine Indeed. “I highly recommend Indeed because it has both jobs and internships. However, it may or may not be helpful for some jobs.” There really isn’t one internship search engine that has it all, which is important to remember. Matt says, “No site will do everything.” If you need help identifying internship search engines, the Career Center has a list of resources to help you.

If you are struggling to find an internship and become frustrated, Matt says to be patient—it is a complex process. It is a good idea to talk to Matt, your professors, family or friends about how you’re doing and what you are finding difficult. Use the connections and networks available to you to seek help and advice and to inquire about internship opportunities.

At the Internship:

Sometimes you will be presented with difficulties during your internship. Matt recommends communicating with your supervisor when you find yourself in these situations. It is your supervisor’s job to provide direction, management and support to you. Communicate with them to clarify information, discuss matters, prevent or resolve conflict and increase your effectiveness on the job. Matt says:

“Communication is key and is the glue in relationships. Talk with your supervisor and do your best to communicate your concerns to them. Talk out conflict, which takes courage, and take steps to revise it. No supervisor is perfect. However, an effective supervisor will ideally provide proper management so that you are able to complete the work that they assign you.”

He also recommends asking questions about what tasks you can perform if you have completed your intern duties and have nothing to do. There is always something that needs to be done!

If you enjoy your internship, Matt suggests talking to your supervisor or HR about possible jobs with the company. He says,

“It takes a moment of courage and assertiveness (not too assertive or pushy though) to inquire about job opportunities. Express that you enjoyed the internship and are interested in a job. Ask if they are pleased with your performance and if you have the necessary qualifications for the open positions. Also, ask about the job application process. Even if there are no immediate opportunities for you, it does not hurt to ask.”  

After the Internship:

Matt strongly recommends sending a handwritten thank you note after the internship that expresses your appreciation and what you learned and valued from the experience. Lastly, if you want to keep in touch with your supervisor, Matt suggests doing the following:

“As you finish, get a sense of your supervisor’s willingness to keep in touch. Ask your supervisor if they can be a reference for you in the future. If they agree, note that it is your job to keep them updated on your resume, activities, work experience, etc. Keep in touch maybe once a semester by email, phone or by paying a visit. Connect with them on LinkedIn—this is really important!”

An internship is a wonderful experience and opportunity that allows you to apply your classroom knowledge to the real world. You will discover new things about your career path, forge new connections and add skills and accomplishments to your resume. By following Matt Pouss’s advice before, during and after your internship, you can get the most out of your internship experience in preparation for your future after graduation.

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