Intern Life: Getting the Most Out of Your Internship

Thursday, August 23, 2012

All this month, we're looking at the world of internships, from pay to policy. Today's topic: Your calls on how to get the most out of an internship. Employers and current or past interns--call us up at 212-433-9692 or post your comment here.

Comments [13]

Lynn from NJ

Here is a different take on the internship topic. As a parent of a pre-vet undergraduate,whereby "shadowing" a veterinarian or acquiring an internship with a veterinarian is imperative. In order to get into medical school a student needs to have these internship experiences reflected on their grad school applications. My daughter is fortunate to have pursued and acquired a paid internship position this summer. It took many inquiries to various vet offices to procure a position.

In particular, I think that all internships are not created equal.(of course)It seems that unless management's takes the time to monitor the intern's work duties to include so called "important learning situations" then nothing happens. The professionals on staff and co-workers may not be of the same mindset as management intended. Therefore, the veterinary interns have to be proactive in order to experience all that they can during that internship. I have been supportive of my daughter and advised that she must vocalize her desires to experience all procedures at the vet hospital. Otherwise, an intern may become in the position of just an adversary to the other "paid staffers" and may not benefit from the doctors on staff. Good luck to all those students seeking paid or unpaid internships. After all, students need "field" experience in order to ascertain whether a particular profession is to be pursued. Thank you for this forum.

Aug. 23 2012 12:21 PM

@mkc - first caller response:
1. Not sure how you can read attractiveness via radio, but I'll take the compliment.
2. I'm definitely not wealthy; I saved money from bartending and then did a freelance data entry project during my career transition.
3. This book will *not* be a money maker, it's too niche. But enough people ask me for advice that I thought it best to put it out there.

Listen: I'm a cynic too, but cynical assumptions rarely tell the whole true story.

Aug. 23 2012 11:16 AM
MG from Manhattan

I disagree with the person who Tweeted "TAKE INITIATIVE. interns who move up/become leaders don't wait. offer smart actionable ideas; execute on them."

Maybe that works in Google or advertizing, but I work in a very large NGO
and if you walk in the door, knowing zero about what we do nor how we do it and start suggesting to people how to do things better, odds are (1) you will be wrong because you don't know what you're talking about and (2) you'll tee people off because you'll be implying they don't know how to do their jobs.

My advice is keep your mouth shut, eyes and ears open, observe and absorb as much as you can and fall over yourself being pleasant and helpful, and whatever you do, don't let on that you think any job is below you, even - GASP - such demeaning tasks as making copies, doing inventory, etc.

Nobody loves a twenty-year-old know-it-all.

Aug. 23 2012 11:00 AM

In the ideal situation it should not be win-win! In the ideal situation the intern should get lots of experience and training out and the employer should get much less out of it than if they had hired someone to do the job. It should be win-lose. Win-win should be for employee-employer, no intern-company.

Aug. 23 2012 10:58 AM
Jonah from Nyc

I was in employed last year so I decided to try a "green building" intership in brooklyn. The first thing they did was to hand me a sledge hammer and tell me to go to the basement and break rocks. They had a lot of slaves there, I was out the door in 5 minutes.

Aug. 23 2012 10:58 AM
Phoebe from bushwick

I was in an internship program in college, so I lived here in NY with kids from all over who were also interning. I got a job out of the deal, but I don't think anyone else did. My advice is work hard. It seemed like a lot of kids took this as an opportunity to goof off in NYC for a semester, which doesn't help anyone in the long run.

Aug. 23 2012 10:57 AM

In all these such discussions I have never heard anyone tell of a _full-time_ unpaid internship that shouldn't have actually been paid.

I think the best tip is to really approach an internship as if you are being paid in educational-experience. That is: demand (politely) to have everything explained to you that you want explained to you. Don't feel shy, especially if you aren't being monetarily compensated.

Aug. 23 2012 10:55 AM

This summer, I was an intern for Congressman Steve Israel of New York's second Congressional district. As an aficionado of all things politic, I was excited to meet the Congressman and ask him my questions about this election cycle in regards to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, of which he is chair. However, I missed the intern lunch with the Representative in which I could ask my questions. Determined to ask them, I asked members of his staff to give me an appointment with him. I was extremely persistent and I suspect a bit annoying, but I got my appointment and my questions answered. My recommendation is to be persistent. If you're passionate about your job, find time to discuss it with your boss. Ask questions. Only then can you decide whether you want to pursue this as a career or not. Use every opportunity you are given.

Aug. 23 2012 10:53 AM
wQueens7 from Wooodside, Queens

I teach at a community college and I just have to say that the whole internship racket is one geared to high-functioning middle class college grads. When I was a young man I worked at a recording studio, which many of my "low-co-workers" used as an internship to advance in the recording industry.
Interns now are all expected to be able to live without pay (ie on the parents' dole or wealthy enough to live without work).
The first guest was, in my opinion, dripping in privilege. Please discuss how people without means can get ahead.

Aug. 23 2012 10:53 AM
mck from NYC

Take away from the first interview:
1. Be beautiful enough to be an actress.
2. Be wealthy enough or have someone who can support you during your internship so you don't really need a job in the immediate future.
3. Be prepared to write a book to get monetary benefits from the internship.

Aug. 23 2012 10:52 AM
BobK from Darien, CT

Interns shouldn't just look for the practical experience of an industry. Look at the way people conduct themselves in that professional environment. There are lots of 'soft skills' that you can learn from watching pros do their thing.

Aug. 23 2012 10:50 AM

Be proactive about getting tasks that relate to what you want experience with. Don't be shy about actually going up to individuals during the day and expressing interest in what they are doing. Offer to take on some of the more rudimentary tasks of that work that could help them out. Most people want to help and appreciate the interest...and could use the help!

Aug. 23 2012 10:50 AM
Andrew from CT

I have been an intern twice and since joining the real world, have managed interns for the past 4 years. By far the most important thing is to get or give a paid internship. Not only does it promote more diligent work out of the intern, it also promotes the employer to pay attention and push the intern to their fullest ability. My first internship was unpaid and was utterly useless. Had I not taken it upon myself to run a research project, my employer would have been perfectly happy to let me continue my training in Sudoku and crossword puzzles.

Internships are there to help college students figure out who they want to be so getting the most out of it is imperative!

Aug. 23 2012 10:47 AM

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