Making the Most of Your Internships
You’ve made it to grad school - through high school, through undergrad, and onto the next educational stepping stone! You’re probably already looking ahead to try and figure out what comes next. For many of us, the answer is the same: internships.
The first step to figuring out what internship suits you best (whether during a school break, during the summer, or during the academic year) is determining exactly what you might be interested in doing. The keyword here is might: one of the greatest strengths of internships is that they allow you to explore your areas of professional interest. If you’re in PA or nursing school, this usually means exploring different areas of specialization. If you’re in MBA school or getting a social work Masters degree, this might mean figuring out what areas of study appeal to you most within your program, and then finding opportunities within it.
Finding an internship also entails asking yourself what you would like your life to look like during its duration. Would you like to work a 9-5 job? Would you like a more flexible schedule? Or would you like to work longer hours? The location is also very important. Where would you like to be? Close to school? Close to home? And where will you live? Once you’ve answered these questions, apply to several opportunities.
Eventually, you’ll pick an internship, and the goal shifts to what you can do to make the most out of it. Our main piece of advice appears to be a very simple one: absorb everything. Pay attention to everything people around you are doing; from the people working the entry-level jobs to the people in higher positions. What do they value in the people working around them? What questions do they ask to do their work effectively? Do they even ask questions? How do they treat each other? How do they treat their work? Do they care about what they are doing?
Put Yourself Out There
Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Some of the most formative experiences in life are those that push you out of your comfort zone. Growth occurs in a state of discomfort. Know what you’re good at, and make sure you’re employing those skills. But try something new - what can you learn on the job, and how fast can you learn it? Ask for tasks that push you, and then ask for feedback on how you performed. Regardless of whether you will end up working at your internship’s location or not, it is a valuable learning opportunity.
Make Connections! Hopefully, you’ll be working with accomplished, motivated people with whom you will form meaningful connections. Don’t let these relationships end when the internship ends! Save LinkedIns and phone numbers, but more importantly, regularly set up coffee shop conversations or happy hours to catch up. A professional network is extremely valuable, and internships are the cornerstones of creating them.
Internships are not the end all be all, but they can be very formative experiences. Make the most out of them.