An Intern’s “Great Expectations”

With fall term – and fall internships – starting soon, it’s a good idea to get ahead by thinking ahead… and setting expectations – of yourself, and of your next internship.

Determining how to get the most from your internship should be a top priority. Before, and during the internship – including your interviews – use this list of “Great Expectations” to help evaluate yourself, your goals, and ultimately the value of the experience.

Set expectations for specific career goals…and discuss them during the interview and with your supervisor the first day on the job. Be realistic. In the interview, first determine if this internship is right for you; will it provide the opportunities and resources to help you achieve your goals? What do you want to learn from this internship that you can take to the next step in your career path? If you wish to be hired after completing the internship, what are the expectations that you must exceed?

Set expectations for the internship…and make sure those expectations are in line with those of your prospective supervisor or mentor. What role will you play? (Hint: a title or simple job description often doesn’t communicate your real role in the company). Do you expect to work directly with a specific mentor? Are you anticipating a reference at the end of the internship – and what will it take to earn that recommendation? Asking questions like these will show you approach your work with purpose and direction.

Set expectations for what types of duties most interest you, and how they might fit the immediate needs of the company…To properly set expectations, it’s important to evaluate your skill set before an internship interview. What are you good at right now? What have you learned that can be of value to this company? Make a list of your skills – even those that seem mundane or trivial. Then compare your notes to the internship job description. Is there a match? If yes, then write a few sentences for each skill, laying out what you think the employer most needs, and how your skill set will fill that need.

This is the key to selling yourself to the employer both at the interview, and after your work begins! It will show your level of preparation, passion, and confidence.

Set expectations – and goals – specifically for your portfolio and/or resume…A strong portfolio is vitally important for many career paths such as public relations, graphic design, advertising and web development. All of us, however, need to leave an internship with a new experience set on an updated resume. On your resume, you must be able to show specific examples of where you applied your skills to your internship. You also want to show a sense of leadership, how you handle responsibility, and personal growth.

During any interview, or any assigned tasks during your internship, ask yourself: “How will this assignment ultimately further my career?” Some tasks may seem tedious and perhaps hard to define; perform these tasks to the best of your ability. Even “go-fer” tasks fall into the “team player” or “willing to wear many hats” categories – traits highly regarded by start-up executives and HR professionals.

Who will be your mentor…and who can you emulate? Make sure you clearly understand the reporting structure of your internship. Ideally, you should be aligned with a supervisor who provides you with great advice throughout your internship. However, your direct supervisor may not be the best mentor for your specific career goals!

After you get comfortable in the company culture and environment, take an objective look around and find the person or people you admire, or can best emulate. Make a list of their admirable traits. Discover the steps they took to reach their current position. Working through your direct supervisor (not around them!) you may want to approach this person formally and offer your assistance, or perhaps request some time to ask questions. Apply their knowledge and advice to help further define your personal career plan.

On the path from internship to employment, expectations (goals) keep us focused and motivated. As you start your internship search keep your own “Great Expectations” list in mind . This simple step will make the most of your internship hunt, the interview process and throughout this internship experience. Are there any “Great Expectations” you would add to our list? Post your suggestions below or tweet @YouTern and we’ll share your comments on the blog. Good luck!

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