Gain an Internship
It seems that everyone is talking about internships, and with good reason; internships can be an essential part of your career development.
An internship is an educational and formalized opportunity in which students gain hands-on work experience in a specific industry or job type from a company or institution. Positions can be full-time or part-time, paid or unpaid, and for-credit or not requiring credit -- but a good internship is an experience of learning and mentorship. Use this page to learn more.
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Maximize Your Experience
Getting the Most From Your Internship
Internships are essential when preparing for full-time positions and graduate school. Be sure to make the most of your internship experience by networking and establishing evidence of your skills and experience for your resume.
We also recommend working toward understanding your industry and its unique culture. Consider how you can bring yourself and your experiences into that space in a way that feels comfortable and safe for you.
Projecting a Professional Image
Dress the Part
Consult your supervisor and other staff members about dress code ahead of time. It is always best to begin your first day more conservatively with your choice of attire, and then obtain a clearer understanding of attire expectations by familiarizing yourself with the office culture. Check out our guidelines to Arrange Your Attire.
Be Prompt and Reliable
Prioritize your weekly schedule. Communicate any schedule conflicts before issues arise. Anticipate changes due to midterms, finals, and breaks.
Maintain a Positive Attitude
Ask questions to demonstrate interest and enthusiasm. If you look and act eager to learn, your supervisor and co-workers will invest more time in training and mentoring you.
Respect Organization Rules and Differences
Notice procedures for answering phones, ordering supplies, and handling concerns or complaints. Be sensitive to communication differences among your coworkers. Emails should be returned as promptly as possible.
Seek Role Clarification and Feedback
Know what is expected in terms of outcomes and deadlines for tasks assigned to you. Ask for feedback along the way.
Keep Records of Everything You Do
Establish a folder for press releases, flyers, memos, and other documents you have completed. Consider keeping a hard copy portfolio, digital portfolio, or media samples for your LinkedIn profile.
Reflect on Your Experience
Spend time considering your observations, feelings, and thoughts about the work experience to help clarify your fit within the organization and the industry.
Exploring Careers Through Your Internship
Talk With Colleagues and Professionals
Ask your supervisor and other colleagues to speak with you about how they got started, insider industry advice, and referrals to other contacts. Check out our tips to learn more about how to Do Informational Interviews.
Join a Professional Association
Find out which professional associations are important to new and experienced professionals in the field -- perhaps your internship site can suggest conferences or events to attend. Find professional associations online or follow industry trends on LinkedIn. Most professional associations offer student discounts.
Learn the Organization’s Trajectory
What were last year’s big triumphs? What are the organization’s major goals and challenges? Is there an annual report or marketing plan that you can review for your department or organization?
Understand the Organization’s Bottom Line
How is the organization funded? What are the projections based on changing trends, new technologies and competition? Learn how your career interests support or contribute to this basis.
Building Long-Term Connections
Arrange a Time to Review Progress
Before your internship is finished, ask your supervisor if you can set up a time to review your progress. This can be part of a final evaluation or it can be done at any point throughout your internship. Consider emailing a short summary of your work, important contributions, and any other items regarding the status of current projects.
Behavior and attitude are critical; people will remember how you made them feel more than the tasks that you accomplished. End your internship on a good note and share the most valuable points about the experience. Ask your supervisor whether they would be open to serving as a reference, or inquire about a specific letter of recommendation.
Ask for Advice
Your supervisor is well connected and you should inquire about individuals they believe may be in a position to provide further advice or leads for your future job search.
Remember Your Coworkers
Before you go, email coworkers that have been a part of your experience to thank them for support. If you have not already done so, connect with key individuals on LinkedIn to expand your network and keep in contact; consider asking supervisors or colleagues to provide a recommendation for you.
Send Thank You Notes and Follow Up
Make a lasting impression with a handwritten or emailed thank you note to your supervisor. Keep in touch periodically and inquire about their work as well.
Moving Yourself Forward
Keep Detailed Records
Maintaining records of your internship experience will help you later on when you want to get a letter of recommendation, connect about job opportunities, or share about the skills you learned with an employer.
Here are a few tips we recommend for good record-keeping:
- Keep the contact information for your supervisor and others you worked with.
- Update your Resume and LinkedIn profile to reflect your new skills and experiences.
- Stay in contact with people you have met in order to continue building your network.
Reflect on Your Next Step
Internships are an opportunity to learn and grow while exploring different career options.
Here are some recommendations to help you reflect further:
- Consider what you liked and did not like about your internship to better understand what types of organizations and positions you want to look for in the future.
- Think about the skills you gained through the experience and the skills that you wish to develop further for your career.
- Identify a few positions that could be potential next steps in your career. Now that you have gained this experience, how can you continue your journey of self-discovery and career satisfaction?
The Internship Toolkit can be used by students and employers to record and streamline employer expectations and student intern participation. The template forms in the Internship Toolkit can be utilized to plan mutual learning outcomes that reflect an educational experience and to provide feedback throughout the internship experience.
Here are the steps to using the Internship Toolkit:
- Download the PDF linked below.
- Review the Internship Toolkit resources with your supervisor and make a plan together to determine how you will utilize the template forms and guidelines in order to meet the needs of the internship experience.
- With your supervisor, collaboratively complete the Intake and Learning Objectives forms to better structure the internship and expectations, identifying the process that will be most efficient for the particular experience.
- Consider adapting these forms to propose internship positions or projects to employers, or as supplemental support when pursuing independent research or academic programs.
- Use the templates as a framework for discussion between supervisors and interns about recommendations and letters of reference, proposals for increased internship responsibility, or consideration for future employment. The Feedback Form is helpful for this.
Ready to start your internship? Check out our tips on The First Day for a deeper understanding of what to expect.
Issues and Complaints
If you face a challenge during your internship experience, please schedule a Career Advising appointment with our Internship & Experience Manager or a Career Counselor.
Additionally, if anything happens during your internship that seems legally or ethically wrong, or simply does not “feel right,” contact us immediately at (805) 893-4412 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Career Services staff are mandated reporters; if you are looking for confidential resources, please review information about UCSB’s Sexual Violence Prevention & Response.