How To Prepare for an Internship

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Finals are over, interview stress has passed and it’s time to, as I like to say, put on your big girl (or guy) pants and get ready for a summer of learning.

The application and interviewing process required a lot of research but you’re not done yet. This is where you can dive a little deeper into your organization and prepare to jump in as best you can during your first day, week and term in the office. Each company and internship program is different but these tactics have helped me succeed in many ways, both on client work and in-office relationship building.

Get to know your organization and clients

Once you find out what kind of projects you’ll be doing, start digging. It’s helpful to have an understanding of your organization and, if you’re in an agency, of your clients. Look at their mission and values statements, learn about the history and review any news they’ve shared or coverage they’ve received recently. Signing up for Google Alerts is a good way to stay up-to-date on everything happening

Determine your goals

Create a list of takeaways you’re hoping to accomplish by the end of the summer. While some responsibilities won’t be flexible, companies are usually great about helping you grow and learn new things and having some specific skills to work on will help them tailor some project work for you. Maybe you haven’t experienced media relations hands-on or want to learn more about thought leadership research; voice that with your team and see if you can help with anything related to that.

Consider the logistics

It seems obvious but map out all of the logistical details. Whether you’re commuting from home, school or moving somewhere new, consider timing and practice how you will get to the office. Try finding a route with less traffic or try two different options on the subway, just in case. This will alleviate any pre-first day nerves and prepare you for the actual 9-to-5 routine. Take a deep dive into your closet to make sure you have work-appropriate clothing for your office atmosphere. You may have a casual dress code or you may be business professional and need to invest in a few staple pieces to mix-and-match. Don’t let it be the night before your first day before you open your closet (plus Memorial Day Weekend typically offers great sales if you need a quick fix).

Have an open mind

This is easier said than done but sometimes internships present challenges or unexpected situations. Try to set aside any expectations you may have and learn and embrace as much as you can. The willingness to ask questions, think critically and help wherever you can will show and you won’t be as easily overwhelmed or disappointed. Take it one step at a time, remember that they hired you for the summer internship and soak it in. These relationships and lessons will help you in many ways throughout college and your career. (And remember… everyone started somewhere!)

Internships are an incredible way to learn what you do and do not enjoy and what skills you should hone in on a little more. While school may be over and there are no homework assignments or exams, dedicate just as much energy into your internship work and office environment. You never know where it will lead!

Sarah Dougherty is the 2016–2017 vice president of career services and a recent graduate from the University of Alabama. Follow her on Twitter @sarahgdougherty.

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