Summer is half over. Have you done everything you can to get the most out of your internship or work experience? If you can’t answer that question with a resounding “YES,” here are some ideas to assure you end your experience in a way that fully maximizes the opportunity. Your employer will organize your work and get you up to speed on your job and the organization, but it is up to you to take the appropriate initiative to get as much out of your work experience as possible.
Clarify and Communicate Your Why
Communicate your reason for choosing your current work experience to your supervisor, mentors and others. Talk with them about what you hope to get out of it, how you hope to grow and how that connects to your career goals. This conversation is critical to their ability to help you achieve those goals and give you feedback on your growth along the way.
Not sure you can communicate this in a concise way? Take a few minutes to define the objective of your experience. If you were to write a mission statement for your time in the experience, what would it say? Conduct a SWOT analysis to help you think through this process.
• What are the strengths I bring to this internship that I can display and that will add value?
• How do I build on and market competencies or skills?
• Where do you see the ability to share that strength within your internship?
• What are areas of weakness where I would like to improve or receive coaching/feedback?
• What competencies or skills do I need to market myself to current / future employers that I lack?
• What opportunities around me would allow me to take additional value from this experience?
• Who are the people around me that can help maximize my experience?
• What would prevent me from making the most of my internship experience?
• How do I avoid or navigate these things?
Next, give thought to the skills and competencies you believe you’ll be developing or those which you know you need to improve. Here’s a list of competencies from which you might want to choose.
• Written communication
• Oral communication
• Creative thinking
• Conflict management
• Decision making
• Learning initiative
• Resource management
• Team participation
• Client/customers service
• Time management
Once you’ve identified the competencies important to you, talk with your supervisor about them. Are they all areas you’ll be able to work on in this experience or are some just not in-line with the work you’ll be exposed to? In what specific ways, can you get practice on these competencies for further development?
Your internship is a time to try new things, advance your skillset and work in a new environment. Look for opportunities to say yes to a variety of tasks or projects that will give you more exposure to the organization. Keep in communication with your supervisor so that these opportunities stay in line with your priorities and workload. You’ll be challenged in your thinking and grow your skills along the way. You’ll also likely meet new people and gain new perspectives as well.
Say yes to the community around you outside of work. Especially if it is an area you’re unfamiliar with, find ways to explore, get involved and get to know people. Your initiative in doing so will give you more perspective to know if it’s a place you can see yourself for a longer period.
Ask questions about the organization, the products or programs. Ask clarifying questions to assure you understand your work expectations early and often. Repeat back what you heard to give an opportunity for those around you to clarify things further.
Questions are a great way to seek advice. Whether through a formal mentor or any colleague, advice from others will help you navigate the experience and grow.
Evaluate Your Internship Experience
Some organizations will have a formal evaluation process. Others may not – but that doesn’t mean you can’t ask for it. Ask for feedback on your work performance and the skills you identified as important for growth.
If you have feedback you believe can help the organization improve the experience for others, find a way to share that in a productive manner.
Your personal reflection and self-evaluation are important as well. Can you identify where you excelled and where you could improve?
Who from your experience would be best able to articulate your contribution to future employers as a reference in the future? Go ahead and ask them if they’d be willing to do so and make sure you maintain your relationship with those people.
Do you have work products that can be used as examples of your work in a portfolio? Assure you ask permission to do so. While the experience is fresh in your mind, write down the project goals, your contribution to the outcomes and what you learned in the process. This will help you translate the value of your experience in future interviews.
You still have plenty of time to maximize your work experience this summer. Make the most of your last few weeks. You can learn much in a very short time if you take initiative, get curious and say yes to new opportunities.
Guest Blog Post by Nancy Barcus, Chief Operating Officer with Agriculture Future of America