How To Get The Most Out Of Your Summer Internship!

By Edwith Theogene
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Internships are a great opportunity to get work experience and learn about your field of interest. When I was in college, I worked for a whole semester so I could afford to spend a month interning at an immigration advocacy organization. It was one of the best experiences! My supervisor was a supportive immigration lawyer who took the time to share knowledge and develop my skills. This internship satisfied a college requirement and allowed me to, as my school would put it “examine issues that people confront in their pursuit for rewarding employment”. I learned about the huge disparities within our immigration system which further solidified my commitment to social justice.

At the time, I was also thinking about law school and because of this internship, I learned that it was not the best path for me.  I gained a lot of knowledge about myself, new friends, and new connections. My supervisor also was a reference for the job I have now!  But trust and believe there were tons of awkward and not so great moments. It was overall a great experience, but there are things I wish I had known then to get the most out of the experience. Here’s a list of some of them for your viewing pleasure:

Pay attention to “Office Culture”

Office Culture is very important. Its one of the few things people think about when they interview or first start their careers.  Now through my experiences, it is absolutely key! Observing how your work space works, is organized, and exist has helped me realize what I want and do not want in a job. You need to be in a place where you can thrive! Paying attention to office culture during internships help you figure out what that means.

Set a coffee date with the person who has your dream job

So, no surprise here, I’m an extrovert! I talked to everyone in my office. But I wish I was intentional and had more one on ones.  My interactions with lawyers and law students  during my internship showed me that law school was not where I wanted to go, but I wish I learned more about what they did or why they were doing what they did. Informational interviews are informal conversations that provide you with insight on career paths and industries. They are great opportunities to get advice, gain perspective, even gain a mentor. The thought of asking a stranger for coffee is awkward but you will be surprised by how many awesome people say yes. I encourage you to do so!

Here’s a helpful link to get you started and insure its successful: Tuesday Truth about Informational Interviews by Madalene Mielke

Here’s a helpful link for networking: She Uploads Her Contacts Into a Spreadsheet. The Next Step? Genius!

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions

Internships are learning experiences. They are like a different classroom that can teach you so many things. Be curious and thoughtful! I did ask a lot of questions to gain understanding during my internship but there were plenty of times I didn’t. It’s okay to not know what you don’t know. Internships provide you with an opportunity to know things! It’s harder to do that if you don’t ask questions to aid the process.

Invest in Yourself as You Invest in the Organization

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Everyone should leave their internship with some sort of tangible accomplishment. Internships are usually compromised of tasks and projects. Somewhere in there is what you walk away with when they are over. What do you want to walk away with for your resume, career portfolio, and self growth? Once you figure that out, hopefully before your internship, take the initiative to get it throughout the internship! Be available and be present. Contribute to the place you are interning. I got to do research on Secured Communities, an immigration deportation program. Guess what I talked about during my job interviews when I was asked if I had research experience? Wish I had more to talk about.

Here’s a link that’s helpful for thinking about what you want to the outcome of your internship to be: 6 Essential Habits For Getting the Career You Want

Here’s a link on how you can be a rockstar during your internship as you invest in yourself as you invest in your org: 16 Habits that Will Make You a Super Star Intern

Hope those were helpful. These are only a couple of tips and I encourage you to look up more. The internet is a vast place. Now go out there and conquer your summer internship! Good Luck!

By Edwith Theogene

Edwith is an intersectional social justice activist and advocate passionate about issues that impact women and communities of color. She is a Washington D.C. based South Florida Native who loves people, quotes, coffee, and pop culture, especially 90’s tv shows.

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