Not Feelin’ It: Tips for Improving Your Internship Experience
by Josh Rimmer, Senior Editor
We’ve all been there. When a job, an internship opportunity, or volunteer experience transpires to be something completely different than what we thought. Rather than developing negative thoughts, it’s best to turn the experience into a learning opportunity. It’s okay when things veer off path–this allows us to learn and grow. It’s essential to learn how to adapt to changing expectations and situations in the professional world. Maintain a positive attitude and consider what you can learn and how you can contribute. Even the most menial tasks can provide an opportunity for growth.
Trust me, people will notice your effort, commitment and attitude. Remember, you are not only representing yourself in an internship, but also your institution. Your behavior and conduct can potentially affect another student’s opportunity.
Tips for Improving Your Internship
Make a List of the Pros & Cons of the Internship Opportunity – Maybe cross checking missing item reports across the library OPAC and ILS system wasn’t exciting, but you did gain a valuable entry-level skill. Maybe you have developed a terrific rapport with your supervisor or other staff members. The point here is, FOCUS ON THE POSITIVE!
Speak Up! – Do not be afraid to talk with your supervisor about issues you are having with your internship. It is critical to be respectful, and tactful in discussing your issues. Do you want to be challenged more? Were you hoping to work on original cataloging more? Talk things over with your supervisor and work together to develop your skill set to give you the experience you need to further your professional goals.
Get Involved and Be Proactive – Hack Library School contributor Chealsye Bowley made an excellent point about being proactive and asking to do more. I could not agree with her more! In a previous internship, I wrote a report offering suggestions on how to improve students’ perceptions of the library and offered my thoughts on how to get students involved.
My report made suggestions on creating more opportunities for students’ feedback; focus pizza groups, creating fun activities –finals week food breaks, and ways to connect with librarians.
The point being, get involved and make an effort to be available, put your best foot forward and show that you are willing to put your skills to use. Remember, your attitude and willingness to be open can play a huge factor in making the most of your internship.
Find a Mentor- Find someone to connect with to help guide you through the internship experience. Maybe this is a fellow co-worker or your supervisor. Find someone you can learn from. Connecting with people in the workplace is key to success
Keep it Classy & Walk Away – Keep it Classy & Walk Away – Fellow Senior Editor Gabrielle Spiers talked a bit on this, in her article last month on Tips for a Successful Internship. Gabrielle is right that you treat leaving the internship, as you would any job. A little professionalism does indeed go a long way. Give your supervisor advanced notice -2 to 3 weeks-, and thank your supervisor for the opportunity. Also, go out of your way to thank co-workers and staff members who helped you during your internship – do this in person. People remember both the good and the bad, especially the bad, so take the high road. The internship may not have materialized the way you wanted, but now is a great time to practice and learn how to be a professional.