Steps to a Successful Internship

Written by:

Wendy Church, student, Department of Anthropology (Archaeology Program), Ohio State University

An internship is an excellent way to build your resume, achieve some of your educational objectives, and refine your career goals. The benefits of a quality internship are many, but they do require a great deal of time and energy and demand that you conduct yourself in a mature and professional fashion. As the student intern, you represent both your university and the institution you are working with and have the responsibility of coordinating communication between these two entities. In order to have the most beneficial and successful experience, you must treat your internship as if it was your job and think of yourself as the “common denominator” between your faculty advisor and site supervisor to be sure everyone is on the same page. The following tips are in no way a comprehensive list, but are some helpful insights into making sure your internship is a good experience.

Before You Look For an Internship:

1. Make sure you have met your university’s qualifications to do an internship.

  • Have you met the minimum GPA?
  • Have you met the academic and coursework requirements?

2. Spend some time thinking about your career and education goals.

  • What kind of experience are you looking for?
  • Do you want to do a project based or experienced based internship?
  • How will an internship help you better define your career goals?

3. Contact your academic advisor and make sure you understand what your school requires from an internship.

  • How many hours must you complete? How many credit hours? Paperwork?
  • Will you have an assignment, in addition to your work at the internship site?

Obtaining an Internship:

1. Ask your academic advisor if he or she knows of any good places for you to intern if you do not have your own ideas.

2. Utilize career services–they usually have databases or listservs that post internship opportunities.

3. Write up a resume and have it critiqued by an advisor or career services.

4. Submit an application if that is required and read internship description carefully to make sure it is a project you are interested in. If no application is required, call or email to make an appointment to discuss opportunities. Be your own advocate!

5. Research the site you will be interning with.

  • Learn more about the institution: look at their website, read their newsletter if they are available, look for them in the news.
  • Ask other students or faculty if they have experience with the organization.

6. Expect to be interviewed.

  • Google common interview questions and think of answers.
  • Do a practice interview with a family member, friend, or if career services offers them. It is important to practice responses to potential questions out loud.
  • Have your own questions about your responsibilities and the institution.
  • Dress professionally and conduct yourself in a professional fashion. Think of this as your job

7. Once you have obtained the position, make sure you have filled out the appropriate paperwork by the given deadlines and make sure you keep your advisor informed. You are responsible for communicating with your advisor and site supervisor.

At the Internship:

1. Be on time and call if you are running late.

2. Make sure you understand your responsibilities–if you do not, ask questions!

3. Respect schedules. Do not be late returning from breaks; take only the time allowed for lunch and breaks.

4. Dress professionally. You should always dress for the job you want

5. Be respectful of others’ time and space.

  • Do not complain.
  • Keep conversation appropriate.
  • Do not use your cell phone in the work place.
  • Ask questions about the job if you are confused about what you are being asked to do.

6. Schedule regular meetings or email updates with both your site supervisor and academic advisor. You will avoid problems by keeping everyone on the same page

7. If you run into a problem at the internship that cannot be worked out by you and the site supervisor, talk with your faculty advisor as soon as possible.

8. Be sure to keep track of your hours

After the Internship:

1. Follow evaluation procedures. Make sure to turn in all required forms and assignments to your supervisor and academic advisor.

2. Ask your supervisor for a reference in the future.

3. Thank your site for their time and experience–a thank you note is always appropriate.

4. Make sure you have copies of all the items you may have created on the job. Incorporate these materials into a professional portfolio. You should also include your CV or resume; photographs of you on the job, interacting with others, and of any projects of displays you created; writing samples; references.

5. Reflect: was this internship helpful in achieving your career and education goals?

  • What went well?
  • What could have been better?
  • What could you have done differently? Ask more questions? Be more outgoing?
  • Submit your evaluation of the site to your supervisor after the completion of the internship if she or he requests one. This will help them improve the internship experience for the next student.