Monday, July 20, 2015

Are you making the most of your summer internship? There's still time . . .

There is still plenty of summer left to make the most of your internship! Classes at Tufts don't start until the second week of September.  Seven weeks remain for you to really dig in and take control of the learning outcomes and results that you'll showcase on your resume and in interviews.  Go beyond the daily tasks and weekly projects - find the thing that would challenge you most in your current role.  And ask for it!!  That's right.  Don't have a "culminating project"?  Propose one.  Want to sit in on meetings?  Make it possible - offer to take notes.  Identified a problem or inefficiency?  Come up with a solution and present it to your supervisor.  Freaked out by public speaking?  Set up a presentation of your work and invite colleagues to attend.  Provide snacks.

And, it's possible that the "thing" isn't part of your job description.  Go beyond your job description. Here's how:

  • MID-POINT REVIEW:  meet with your supervisor for a mid-summer performance review.  A common internship best practice is for your supervisor to provide feedback and constructive criticism about the progress you've made toward learning objectives and goals, both at the midpoint and end of the internship.  Check out this form used by Penn State's Information Science and Technology Internship Program, which I like because the supervisor and the intern complete it together.   If you sense that your supervisor is not interested or feels it is a burden to conduct a review, then make it easy for her by setting up a meeting to solicit feedback and emailing her ahead of the meeting with the competencies and areas you would like to cover. While it might feel pushy, you'll be doing a favor for future interns.

  • 360 DEGREE FEEDBACK: ask for feedback from those around you.  Supervisors aren't the only ones who can serve as professional references for you.   But remember, just as feedback is hard to get, it's also hard to give.  I attended a workshop last week about providing effective feedback, and we spent four hours discussing positive feedback vs. constructive feedback, the favorable conditions for a feedback conversation, challenges that prevent effective feedback, and role plays of different scenarios.  It was a truly valuable exercise.  As a career advisor, I provide feedback all day, but this was an opportunity for me to remember that I need to solicit feedback, not just from my supervisor, but from my peers.  The process of 360 degree feedback has roots in the human resources field, and serves as a contrast to the kind of feedback I described in my previous bullet where you're only hearing from your manager. Closer to home, it's also used as a tool in college student leadership development and personal career development planning.

  • INFORMATIONAL INTERVIEWS: invite colleagues to lunch or coffee and conduct informational interviews.  This is a NO BRAINER!!!  Get up, out of your chair, out of your cube, unless you're in an open office like HomeAway or The Bridgespan Group, then just turn to the person next to you and treat them to an iced caramel macchiato at Starbucks or a Unicorn's Blood at Mother Juice (think juice bar).  The #2 reason you are interning at this organization is to network with those around and to learn about their career paths in order to contribute to the design of your own path.  (The #1 reason is gaining hands-on experience and skills in a field of interest). If informational interviews and networking freak you out, reframe the idea; think of the exercise as a journalism assignment.  For tips on informational interviewing and to actually SEE what happens during an informational interview, check out this video.  

  • SUPERVISOR AS CAREER ADVISOR: propose a resume critique and/or mock interview with your supervisor.  If they interviewed and hired you, then they know what to look for on a resume and in an interview.  The internship  interview is a scaled down version of the interview for a full time position, so it would be useful to learn more about the types of questions that are asked for entry level positions.   And surely your supervisor has ideas about what she likes and doesn't like on the resumes she reads.  Let's say your field requires technical interview questions or case questions, your supervisor is probably a better judge than a career advisor like me.  A practice interview with a career advisor is a solid first step, but it should not stand as your only opportunity for practice.  While I conduct lots of practice interviews with students, my knowledge has limits.  I frequently recommend that students ask former supervisors and colleagues to conduct a practice interview. Impressing a colleague through a mock interview is a clever way to update a member of your network with the experience you've gained, and it helps you to keep an eye out for the next opportunity.
NASA/JPL-Caltech/Lyle Tavernier

  • LEADERSHIP: take your fellow interns to lunch and share what you've learned.  This is not a gossip session or a time to rant about your supervisor.  I'm suggesting a professional lunch where you share about your internship experiences.  If there is more than one intern working at your organization, I hope that you're already getting together as a team and it's part of the internship experience, but if it's not, here's your chance to step up, demonstrate leadership, and coordinate a lunch.  The agenda?  Discuss what you've learned on the job, challenges you've encountered, contacts that you've made, and how the internship could be improved.  Take notes, summarize and present to leadership.  

Last, but not least . . .

  • JOURNAL: take a few minutes each day, or at the end of each week, to reflect on what you enjoy about your work, accomplishments, challenges, and skills you'd like to build. Keeping track of the details will help you to fully capture your summer internship on your resume, in cover letters, in your LinkedIn profile, and in stories for networking and future interviews.

The Tufts Career Center is open throughout the summer, Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm.  Make an appointment by calling 617 627-3299.  

Nicole M. Anderson
Assistant Director/Career Advisor
Tufts Career Center