DePaul University Career Center's Blog

Making the Most of Your Internship

By: Sabah Nanlawala, Career Community Ambassador

As we approach Winter Quarter, many of you may be searching for internships or may have secured one already! Regardless, it’s an exciting opportunity to gain professional skills and apply or learn new knowledge. However, each experience can look different and choices you make can determine how valuable this opportunity can be for you.

Here are 8 tips on how to make the most of your internship:

  1. Set clear goals and expectations as soon as possible. It is important to understand what skills and knowledge you want to learn and what responsibilities you want to have during an internship. Sitting down with your supervisor at the start of your internship can help both of you better assess and determine both your personal goals and expectations and those of your supervisor’s. 
  2. Get to know how your site is organized and functions. How are the roles at your site organized? How is the work delegated and controlled? How is the authority structure organized and what is their supervision style (i.e. hands on)? What are the norms and informal culture at the site? What is the communication style? Understanding how your site is organized and functions ensures that you navigate your environment appropriately. It is also an opportunity for you to communicate with your supervisor to evaluate and adjust your own expectations to meet both yours and their needs. 
  3. Network with the people you’re working with. The people around you are a great resource to learn different things at your site. Ask questions and learn more about their role, the work culture, tips and tricks, and gain valuable insights into the field. It’s a great opportunity to network and integrate yourself into a new work environment!  
  4. Take initiative in your learning experience. Work experience at your internship can vary, allowing you to learn different things. This is why it is important to revisit or re-evaluate your goals and expectations and take initiative to pursue new and different learning opportunities. For example, you can take this as an opportunity to shadow a staff member to learn more about a role you may be interested in. It is important to remain proactive to make the most of your time at your internship by growing your skill set and gaining field insights.  
  5. Measure your performance. While opening yourself up to constructive feedback can be nerve-wracking, it is important to have your supervisor evaluate your performance so you may continue to grow your skills. Talk to your supervisor at the start of your internship and determine how you want to assess your progress throughout your internship. This could look like one-on-one check-ins with your supervisor or just casual conversation. Regardless, it is important to know what you’re doing well and areas you can improve in. 
  6. Have good work habits and maintain professionalism. It is just as important to do good work as it is to conduct yourself in a professional and appropriate manner. Dressing appropriately, using courteous and professional language, arriving on time, staying organized, completing tasks reliably and efficiently etc., demonstrate that you are prepared for a professional position. 
  7. Stay in touch. Even if your internship has ended, the relationships you have built do not have to. Ensure that you thank your supervisor and other staff for their support during your internship and email them every now and then to check in and maintain a relationship with them. If possible, add them on LinkedIn, too! You never know who you might have to turn to for a reference letter or professional advice. 
  8. Reflect on your experience. Take a moment to look back on all that you have accomplished and learned over the course of your internship. Highlight the new skills you’ve gained, projects you’ve worked on, and new values and interests you may have formed, and take a moment to incorporate it into your LinkedIn, resume, cover letters, etc. Also, evaluate how your experience shapes your academic and career aspirations. Maybe you solidified your interest in your field or you learned of a new position or career path. Or maybe there is an area that you want to further explore. Take this as a chance to map out your next steps in your professional journey.  
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