So you’re halfway through your dream internship; now what? There are numerous ways to gauge how you are working — thriving — in your internship. The important thing is that you are measuring your work. Whether it’s for a resume, LinkedIn or end-of-internship evaluation, you should keep track of your accomplishments, challenges and goals.
Set goals and manage expectations
Goals are a simple and effective way to track progress.
“Define with clarity your internship goals in advance,” said Dr. Tom Denham, career counselor and contributor to the Times Union.” Come up with at least five things that you want to get out of the experience.”
Whether you set these goals in the beginning or later on in the semester, having specific and measurable objectives written down will be great to reference throughout the internship. It also will help you be able to manage time and see what you’re hoping to achieve moving forward. They can range from “produce X media lists that produce X successful pitches,” to “meet a coworker for coffee once a week to build an internal network.” They don’t have to be complicated or lengthy. It’s a happy balance between personal and professional development.
Find a mentor
For me, the best way to get to know the industry and company has been through mentorship. Having an intern mentor is like having a personal “Ask Me Anything” with someone who has been in your shoes, possibly even at the same company. Mentors will help you track progress, see improvements in work quality and type, and can help with more of the “soft skills” employers look for and supervisors evaluate, like teamwork and communication. If your internship doesn’t pair you with a mentor, try to meet people on your team or in the office who may help with your development whom you feel comfortable going to with questions.
Build an internal network
While you shouldn’t “measure” the number of people you build relationships with, you should be trying to meet as many people in the office as you can. Having strong, genuine relationships with coworkers at all levels — fellow interns to senior vice presidents — is beneficial for day-to-day routines and long-term once the internship ends. Not only will it expose you to some inspiring professionals, but it also will help you and your work be known. The more people who have worked with you and are familiar with your work ethic, the better. Public relations is a big industry that is truly its own small world; having seasoned professionals cheering for you will count as a huge success at the end of the summer.
Ask for feedback
This seems obvious, but a truly measureable way to see progress is to sit down with your supervisor and project managers. Compare your first drafts with the final copies, discuss strengths and weaknesses and seek as much constructive criticism as possible. This is so helpful, especially at the midpoint, and will give you new objectives to strive for moving forward. Pinpoint small things like repeated AP style mistakes, and overarching opportunities for improvement such as attention to detail and research skills. Being receptive to and building off of feedback are great skills to have and will prepare you to take on larger assignments in the future.
Success can mean different things to different people, so communicate with your team about their expectations and your goals to find the right balance. Enjoy every day and embrace each challenge; it’ll pay off.
Sarah Dougherty is the 2016–2017 vice president of career services and a senior at the University of Alabama. Follow her on Twitter @sarahgdougherty.