5 Tips to Making the Most of an Internship

by Alexis Stapp, former Head Editor, INALJ Minnesota
previously published 4/24/13

5 Tips to Making the Most of an Internship

alexisstappWe all know that one of the key things for landing a library or information job is to get experience in the field.  Internships are one of the ways to do this but if you’ve never had an internship before, here are some ideas for how to have an internship that reflects your professionalism.

1.  Clarify your expectations of the internship at the beginning.  Make sure you fully understand what is expected of you.  If you have the chance, sit down with your supervisor so you can talk about the focus of the internship together and the kind of opportunities you’ll be given, as well as what you want out of the internship.  Sometimes you may have no choice about doing the less interesting tasks (see #4) but if you have certain goals, make those known at the outset and hopefully your supervisor will be willing to help you achieve them.

2.  Ask to go on ride-alongs: A ride-along is when a civilian asks to hang out in the passenger seat of a police car to have the chance to observe the daily routine of law enforcement officials.  Ask your internship supervisor and other staff if you can sit in the passenger seat, so to speak, and shadow them for a day or even a few hours.  Not only will you have a chance to see all the aspects of that person’s job, but you can also see how they manage their time.  This is especially useful if you spend a lot of time working independently on projects.  It’s too easy to get comfortable doing that one thing and it’s important to see all areas.

3.  Keep a running log or journal of your time there, even if not required to.  This is something I find helpful to do with both jobs and internships, but if you’ve never thought about it or done it before, an internship is a good time to start.  For the months you’re there, keep track of your different duties and projects.  Write a description of how you were involved with each.  Give specific numbers when possible.  When it comes time to write this on your resume and when you start going to job interviews, it’ll make that process so much easier since you’ll be able to look at your “diary” and be really specific about what you did and learned.

4.  Be flexible.  As an intern, you may wind up doing a lot of “menial” tasks.  Many library interns I know, including myself, did a lot of shelving, shelf-reading, and photocopying, even at the same time I was doing reference, instruction, and more .  The important thing is to remain positive and show that you are a dedicated worker in all tasks great and small.  Every job has menial tasks and it’s important to establish you’re willing to be a part of the team and do the grunt work, too.  If you start out doing the menial stuff, chances are after you’ll be given more interesting and exciting projects later on which leads me to my last tip…

5.  Speak up!  If the so-called menial stuff seems to be all you do, say something.  Remind them of your goals and let them know, in a constructive way of course, that you feel you have skills going unused.  Also, ask questions.  You are there to learn all about the field and the place.  Asking questions shows your motivation and enthusiasm.  Talk to as many people as you can to give you the broadest perspective.

Naomi House

Naomi House, MLIS, is the founder and publisher of the popular webzine and jobs list INALJ.com (formerly I Need a Library Job) and former CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) of T160K.org, a crowdfunding platform focused on African patrimony, heritage and cultural projects. INALJ was founded in October 2010 with the assistance of her fellow Rutgers classmate, Elizabeth Leonard. Its social media presence has grown to include Facebook (retired in 2016), Twitter and a LinkedIn group, in addition to the interviews, articles and jobs found on INALJ. INALJ has had over 21 Million page hits and helped many, many thousands of librarians find employment! Through grassroots marketing, word of mouth and a real focus on exploring unconventional resources for job leads, INALJ grew from a subscription base of 20 friends to a website with over 500,000 visits in one month. Naomi believes that well-sourced quantity is quality in this narrow job market and INALJ reflects this with many new jobs published daily. She has also written for the 2011, 2012 and 2013 LexisNexis Government Info Pro and many other publications in the past decade. She presents whenever she can, including serving on three panels at the American Library Association's Annual Conference in Las Vegas; as breakout presenter at OCLC EMEA in Cape Town, South Africa; as a keynote speaker at the Virginia Library Association annual meeting; at the National Press Club in Washington DC; McGill University in Montreal, Canada; the University of the Emirates, Dubai, MLIS program and the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Naomi was a Reference, Marketing and Acquisitions Librarian for a contractor at a federal library outside Washington, DC, and has been living and working in Budapest, Hungary and Western New York State. She spent years running her husband’s moving labor website, fixed and sold old houses and assisted her husband cooking delicious Pakistani food. She is preparing to re-enter the workforce and is job hunting. Her husband is now the co-editor of INALJ, a true support!  She has heard of spare time but hasn’t encountered it lately. She pronounces INALJ as eye-na-elle-jay.