Tips for a successful internship or practicum
by Gabrielle Spiers, Senior Editor
As a former intern who did a practicum during library school I have experience from the the LIS student perspective. I know my LIS program is far from the only one to require a practicum. Additionally, I currently run an internship program at my job, which has taught me to look at things from an employer’s perspective. I have created some guidelines that will help make your internship run smoothly. I was an intern for my current employer before being hired–hopefully these tips will help with your internship experience.
- Make sure the goals for the internship are clear: I like to send a list of internship guidelines to my interns a couple of days before they start so they have time to go over them. I know first days can be hectic with a lot of information to process. I also make sure to go over the guidelines with the interns.
- Ask questions: use common sense about this. Do not bother a supervisor about a zillion little things that you can figure out on your own. However there are some things that need to be asked. Ask questions, please!
- Observe: every organization is different and everyone has different ways of doing things. It is good to just sit back, take things in, and see how things work.
- Gain trust: my interns have to be fairly self-sufficient because I am not always in the building to supervise them directly. I try to be there during the first few weeks but eventually I will need to go to a different research facility, or I’ll be sick or something unexpected will happen. I need to know that my interns can be trusted to work without direct supervision. Even in a situation where this is not the case, it is important for your supervisor to know that they can trust you. More trust means more responsibility and that can mean more interesting assignments.
- Take your work seriously and keep records: sure there are boring aspects to internships but there are boring aspects to most jobs. For my library school practicum I had to keep track of my hours and what I did.
- Ask for feedback: assuming you are in an environment where constructive feedback will be offered, asking for feedback can be very useful. It shows an interest in learning, improving, and growing.
- Dress appropriately: Interestingly enough this would not have made this list until recently. I spend a lot of time looking at primary sources in an archival research room so I dress for that. I also like to wear skirts and dresses when the weather is warm. On a practical note it can get very cold in an archive especially in the summer. That is important to keep in mind.
- Quit appropriately: I had one intern quit after two hours because it was “too hard”, even though she knew what she was going to be doing. I had another not show up and then respond to my email with “oh I found another job.” Sometimes things do not work out and that is fine. A little professionalism goes a long way. Especially in the library field which can be frighteningly small.