As a current internship coordinator for undergraduate and graduate students, I have become fairly knowledgable in helping students making the most of their internship experience and getting the skills that they need for their desired job.
It’s about the Skills. Some students become upset when they do not get their top choice for an internship. They feel as if all is lost and they will not get the career job that they had hoped for. That is the farthest thing from the truth. For internships, you have to look past the name and overview of the organization and focus more on what skills you can learn while you are there. As a social worker, my student internship was with older adults because there were no spots left in the youth organization that I had hoped for. Although I would be getting a difference experience, I knew that I could still learn valuable skills working with this population that could be applied to many jobs that I planned on applying to post-graduation. Know the skills you want to learn and then determine what you can do at the internship to gain and enhance those skills.
Learning Agreement. Many times, interns feel as if they are at the bottom of the totem poll. As an intern, you are not just the file and copy person. You have strengths and are trying to build your skill set. You can create a learning agreement, which is basically a written agreement between you and the supervisor regarding the tasks that you will complete during your time there. Before you create a document like this, research the organization enough to know the programs and possible experiences that you can get there. That way, when you are making this agreement, you can ask to gain certain experiences from the start.
Network. The skills and experience you learn at an internship can be extremely valuable; however, students cannot forget to network. Even as students, you should have business cards. A student of mine had business cards printed with a QR code that, when scanned, linked to his linkedin page. Genius! It is never to early to start networking and presenting as professional as possible.
Internships can be a great experience but sometimes you need to advocate and put yourself out there in order to get the experiences you desire. The students today are very competitive and you need to do whatever you can to stand out. Gaining experience through internships, networking, and having creative ways to set yourself apart will work in your favor when entering the job market.