Making the Most of My Summer Internship
By Wonpyo Yun '14
When I was starting my summer internship in a field in which I had no prior experience, I was expecting to be overwhelmed with the task at hand and to be intimidated by those around me who had experience working in the industry. And this was exactly what happened. However, at the end of the internship, I found that not only was this initial mindset necessary for the success I found in the workplace, it was integral to the experience. This is not to say that having this anxiety is the only way to be successful, but rather that its mere existence should not impede success. I looked for a way that I could channel the successful techniques from my academic studies into the workplace environment, and unsurprisingly, many of the successful practices are common to both. The bullet points outlined below are some of the parallels that I found between learning in the academic environment and learning in the workplace:
- Know and understand your own goals – Just like schoolwork, what you get out of an experience is what you want to take away. Make sure you realize why you are taking the job (vs. a class) and what type of experience you would like from the different projects you work on (vs. individual assignments).
- Be precise with what the task requires – As your grade depends on the professor or preceptor, what your supervisor expects from you varies depending on who is reviewing it and the context of the project. Try to understand how the project fits into the grand scheme of things and the different things each person might expect from you; it’s all about making them satisfied with your work
- Ask questions – Similar to the note above, asking questions is crucial for you to do the assignment / project correctly the first time around. Chances are, if you don’t understand it, then it was not explained to you as clearly as it could have been. Especially as an amateur coming in, it is absolutely expected that you will ask clarifying questions that will not only help in the completion of the assignment, but also enhance the learning experience.
- Ask for feedback – In addition to asking questions, asking for feedback is just as, if not more, important. In the academic context, feedback is often given in the form of comments on an assignment. However, in the workplace, the range of feedback varies greatly – often, a supervisor will assume that you are satisfied with the quality of your own work if you do not reach out to them, so be sure to constantly seek where you could be making improvements, as well as understand where you have your strengths.
- Take notes; always carry around a notebook – For a student, this might take the form of a planner or iCal or the like, but in the workplace, many impromptu meetings will come up and you will need to understand what is going on as well as to refer back to it in the future. A small notebook will help keep track of your thoughts, remind of you questions you have, and remember little notes that often go unnoticed if not written down.
- Be patient with your development – Just like first semester of freshman year is a transition, an internship / job will also take time to adjust. You will not see drastic changes in the first stage, but over time you will be surprised as to the changes in approach, delivery, and mindset that develop as you gather more experiences.