Since all current UCDC students have now settled into their respective internships, I thought it might be helpful to write a post directed towards the future UCDC students. In this blog post, I assembled a short list of things that are easy to accomplish, but also very necessary in order to make the most of your internship here. This list aims to help make internships not only satisfactory, but also meaningful and worthwhile.
As you will come to know, the opportunities for internships in D.C. are endless. We have the ability to intern for any company we want, as long as we get the job. And what one intern may do on a day-to-day basis may differ greatly from another’s. Although this may be the case, this list should be able to relate to every student no matter his or her internship responsibilities or what company they intern for. At the lists core, each point relates directly back to what we all came here to do–to learn, to work, and most importantly to gain a better understanding of what we could see ourselves doing in the future.
How to Make Your Internship Worthwhile:
- Make The Most of Each Day
- Build and Maintain Connections
- Identify Personal Goals & Incorporate Them into Your Work
1. Making the most of each day
It goes without saying we all show up to work on time, ready to go, and ready to learn. We polish those shoes, brush that hair, and straighten that tie. But beyond that, interns need to remember to make a presence. Always assert yourself in the office and offer your help to anyone that might need it. If you find yourself not having much to do, talk to your supervisor and ask what else you might be able to assist him/her with. Don’t just wait for something to be handed to you. Making yourself available for additional assistance will show that you are willing to learn beyond what you signed up to do and it can land you projects you wouldn’t have got without asking. Doing so can also help build and maintain connections in your office (another step in this list).
Beyond the workplace, I believe a healthy balance between your personal life and your work life is pretty necessary in order to stay sane. An 8-5 work schedule that commonly consists of staring at a computer screen can become exhausting over time. This can become especially true when classes, readings, and homework are added on top of that work schedule. However, setting aside some time for you own personal interests gives you a chance to break that typical routine. Try that lunch spot you’ve been stalking on Yelp. Go sit in that park by your office during your lunch break. Take a walk and explore what’s around you. Find some things that interest you and go do them! Not only does it make your workweek more exciting, but it’s also a way to maximize the little time you have living in D.C.
2. Build and maintain connections
It’s all about connections. Although you may be branded as “the intern” remind yourself that everyone starts as an intern, and it is what you do with your internship that sets you up for success. During the first week of my internship (when I honestly didn’t have much to do except fill out paperwork and read the company handbook… which by the way was riveting…) I took the time to research my company’s founders, CEO’s, COO’s, and person’s of importance. I wrote down their names, looked up their backgrounds, and identified what their interests and business ethics were. Comparing each execs interests and goals with the company’s goals, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the each leader’s ambitions were reflected in almost every facet of the company. This background info not only lets you get a better feel for the company’s leaders, but also exposes you to what ideologies the company chooses to focus on and why.
Another task I did during my time of paperwork limbo was the typical Name Game. I challenged myself to meet everyone in the office and remember every individual’s name. With around 30 people, my office is relatively small, so this was doable. For offices of 50+, that might be a little unrealistic, but you should challenge yourself to as many as you can. Definitely introduce yourself to the people you aspire to work directly under. A small introduction can go a long way. I know names can be hard, but once they stick, they stick. And you never know when remembering a name can come in handy.
3. Identify your goals & incorporate them into your work
I personally believe this to be the most important aspect of making the most of your time here. Identifying your own goals not only reaffirms your interests, but can also spark some ideas about future projects and responsibilities you can work on within your internship. Some of us, myself included, do not get always get assignments that we dream of working on. Sometimes these tasks may be tedious and mundane, and other times they may have nothing to do with our personal interests. However, the truth is, as interns, we do not always get to start off doing the exact thing we love. BUT identifying what our goals are and relaying these goals to our supervisor allows for a greater conversation about what we can offer to the company as interns. This conversation can then lead to you being able to do more work under a sector you personally find direct interests in.
This may be the most broad step in creating a worthwhile experience, but incorporating what you love into what you do not only makes your work more worthwhile, but the time spent working more worthwhile as well. Getting involved in something that reflects your goals will not only boost your moral but enhance your work quality as well.
These steps may seem obvious, but they really do help during your first few weeks as the new intern. Good luck future UCDCians, we know you’ll kill it!