Every once in a while I hear a horror story about a bad internship. My first response is always, I wish I would have known earlier so I could have helped. But, regardless if the internship was positive or not there are always lessons to take away from that experience.
Supervisor preferences –
Think about how you were managed at the internship. What did you like? What didn’t you like? If you could describe your ideal supervisor, how would he/she work and manage? Supervisors can make or break an internship experience. Remember when you interview for any job, even an internship, that you take time to ask them questions also.
Maybe you just didn’t like the work. Consider what parts of the job duties you enjoyed the most and what you enjoyed the least. For the duties you enjoyed the least, ask youself, “Why?” What about those duties made them less appealing to you as a worker? The more you know about your interests at work, the more focused your job search will be, and more likely you’ll find a job that you enjoy.
Co-workers and environment preferences –
What was the company culture like at the internship site? How were the co-workers and their relationships with you? These are good qualities to assess for internships and potential new jobs. You can tell a lot about the company by observing interactions, nonverbals, and verbal remarks during an internship.
Ask yourself if it’s the type of place where you would like to become involved in the future or not.
Negotiation tactics –
All good intern supervisors have the understanding that interns are there to learn and should have frequent meetings with his/her intern(s) to discuss progress, goals, and needs. By having successful discussions with your supervisor you can practice how to positively negotiate.
Even if you didn’t have a great internship experience, you’ve still walked away with a learning experience. That’s what internships are all about, learning. Don’t forget to reflect, write logs and journals, and talk to counselors or advisors about your experience. By reporting a poor experience to a university representative you’ll have a better chance of improving it, and also be able to gain an objective perspective on the internship experience.
Karen is a Career Counselor and Internship Coordinator at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW). At IPFW she assists students in finding internships, coordinates and assists with campus-wide events, teaches a Career Planning course, and meets with students individually to assist them with all aspects of career development. She has a Bachelor of Science in Education with a major in Recreation and Tourism and a Master of Arts in Mental Health Counseling from Bowling Green State University (GO Falcons!). Her 10+ years professional-experience ranges from working at camps, schools, a church, college campuses, and other non-profits. Although these may seem unrelated she attests that she still uses both her degrees and life experiences from all jobs in her current career. When she isn’t working or volunteering at one of four local non-profits, she enjoys singing in two choruses and spending time with her family and black lab, Othello. You can connect with Karen through Twitter, LinkedIn, or IPFW’s Blog.