Congratulations on your internship! If you have not already done so, draft a learning proposal (PDF). It will help you articulate your vision and goals for your internship experience and serve as a useful tool in initial conversations with your supervisor.
Before the internship
After you have accepted your internship, schedule a meeting with your supervisor to discuss the logistics of your position as well as mutual expectations. An on-site meeting is ideal, but a phone conversation also suffices. Topics for discussion include:
- Your start and end dates, hours, and dress code.
- Your work space. Will you have access to a computer?
- Identification needed for tax documentation.
- Any requests for time off, such as a family wedding. Keep these requests to minimum.
- The type of feedback you will receive. Will it be verbal, written? On a regular basis?
Follow-up your conversation with an e-mail summarizing your conversation and conveying your enthusiasm for the position. Let your supervisor know how to contact you prior to your start date. Use the sample internship confirmation letter (PDF) as a guide.
While you are interning
Become Oriented to the Workplace
- Ask for a tour of the facility at the beginning of your internship. Make note of where printers, copiers, fax machines, and rest rooms are located. Ask if you will need keys or employee identification for access to the building. Inquire about the payroll process and how to keep track of your hours so you are paid in a timely manner.
- Arrange a meeting with your supervisor to discuss the organization, including specific challenges and any recent changes. Request reading material that may be insightful and further contribute to your understanding of the organization or division, helping you place your role in better context.
Ask questions about your work
- When given an assignment, ask for a clear sense of what is expected of you, a deadline for completion, and where the project falls among other priorities. You should never say, “I don’t have anything to do.” Seize the opportunity to assume new responsibilities and learn from the professionals around you.
Keep an Internship Journal
- Keeping a journal will help you assess your experience and make it easier to update your resume in the fall. Journal entries do not have to be lengthy but should capture the substance of your responsibilities, your general thoughts, and reactions to your work. Maintain your journal on a daily or weekly basis. See Tips and Thoughts on Your Internship Journal (PDF) for more ideas.
- Arrive at work early and resist the temptation to leave early, even if others are doing so. Respect the organization’s dress code. If you have to ask if an outfit is appropriate for the workplace, it probably isn’t. Keep conversation professional. You want to establish a reputation based on your work, not on your personal life. Stay positive and optimistic during stressful periods. Don’t engage in negative chatter about the organization, department, or fellow colleagues-- you never know who is listening.
Develop Your Network through Informational Interviewing
- Conducting on-site informational interviews during your internship is an effective way to learn more about the organization and industry as well as develop your network of contacts. Try to facilitate at least one informational interview during your internship. Make sure to discuss this with your supervisor beforehand to obtain approval. View the Informational Interviewing (PDF) resource for more information and sample interview questions.
Problems during the internship
Sometimes, even with the best of planning, problems can arise during an internship: conflicts with coworkers or supervisors, lack of supervision, or incessant administrative tasks after the promise of a substantial project. If you are faced with such challenges, we suggest the following action plan:
- Discuss your situation with an individual who does not work for the organization – a UCS counselor, a friend, family member - to obtain an objective viewpoint. Try to pinpoint where the problem lies.
- Brainstorm ways to improve the situation, including ways you can be flexible, and write down your ideas.
- Meet with your supervisor (or other individuals with whom a problem exists), explain the situation from your point of view and review your ideas. Avoid accusations and ask the individual for his or her perception of the situation.
- If possible, try to achieve a consensus and resolve the issues. Do not share your concern with others in the organization who were not involved in this meeting.
If you fail to resolve your issues, call Undergraduate Career Services at (203) 432-0800 to talk with a career counselor. We can help guide you to your next step.
Finishing the internship
Make sure you have fulfilled all of your responsibilities and tie up any loose ends. Ask your direct supervisor for a recommendation letter or to serve as a reference at a later date. There may also be others in the organization that you may want to ask if you have developed a relationship with them. Making this request while still on site will yield a more effective recommendation as your performance will be fresh in their mind.
Send a thank-you letter
- After leaving the organization, send a written thank-you letter to your direct supervisor and any other employees who served as mentors to you over the summer. Your letter should convey your appreciation for the experience, a sense of what you learned, gratitude for any references written on your behalf, and your school contact information. View the Post-Internship Thank You Letter (PDF) resource for more information and sample letters.