An internship at any age or career stage can be a great experience if you prepare to take advantage of it. To do so, human resources and career experts offer these general tips:
- Decide what you want from an internship and share those goals with your internship supervisor.
- Be professional by arriving on time, having a positive attitude, being self-sufficient and volunteering.
- Observe those around you and absorb all you can.
- Ask for feedback and advice.
- Network broadly with as many people as you can.
- After your internship is over, say thank you but also stay in touch over time and provide relevant updates that will help you stay top of mind.
For more specific feedback, Jessica Bruno interviewed Katia Diaz (at right, top) and Jamie Primeau (at right, bottom), two 2012 New York Women in Communications Foundation scholarship recipients, to get their advice and see how they made the most of their summer internships.
Q. Do you think internships are important to career development?
Katia: “No amount of classroom preparation can replace the practical experience you get from an internship. You learn to hone skills, adapt to different situations and hopefully become an essential part of an organization.”
Jamie: “You can only learn so much in the classroom. Trying out different internships allows you to explore career options and attain invaluable insight along the way.”
Q. How did your 2012 internship impact your career path?
Katia: “Through my internship at Scholastic, I was able to gain insight into the public relations industry. In addition, once I shared my interest in Asia (at Seton Hall University Katia is majoring in Journalism and Public Relations with a minor in Asian Studies & Diplomacy), I was given contact information to work at a Japanese consulting firm. Even at school, due to my internship I was recommended to work as an official reporter for “The Alternative Press” as part of a school project.”
Jamie: “My Hearst internship gave me a network of strong, career-oriented women – both peers and experienced professionals – I know I can now look to for advice and inspiration. The internship also allowed me to gain invaluable insight into the magazine industry and specifically what it’s like at “Seventeen.” The experience definitely solidified my desire to work in magazines after I graduate.” (Jamie is studying Journalism and English at The College of New Jersey.)
Q. What’s the most important thing you learned from your internship?
Katia: “How to work in a fast-paced and often stressful environment. I had worked as an intern for a broadcasting company in the past, so through this internship I noticed the difference between news and public relations, where priorities and duties are sometimes far different than what one would expect.”
Jamie: “I learned so much it’s hard to pinpoint one thing. But if I had to pick, I’d say I learned that it’s possible to have a career that you love – one that is challenging yet enjoyable. The editors at “Seventeen” all work very hard, but clearly love what they do. I now aspire to have a career like that.”
Q. What advice can you offer on how to take advantage of an internship?
Katia: “I found the best way to learn was to observe, ask questions, no matter how trivial or irrelevant they may be, and interview heads of departments about their duties and responsibilities.”
Jamie: “Give any and every assignment 110% effort. Even if it means staying late or going out of your way to attend an event, it’s worth it. Also, don’t view your fellow interns as competition.”
Q. What advice can you offer to find an internship?
Katia: “Be honest and straightforward about your career goals. And most importantly, be yourself in the interview process.”
Jamie: “Don’t doubt your abilities. Instead of fearing rejection, go for it because you never know who will say yes. Regardless of where you wind up, any internship experience is a worthwhile one because you always learn something – even if it’s what you don’t want to do in the future.”