Congratulations on securing your internship! It is important to determine and complete action items before, during, and after your internship in order to make the most of your professional development.
Start by creating a Learning Plan for yourself to help you in articulating your vision and goals for the internship experience. A Learning Plan can assist as a useful tool in initial conversations with you supervisor, and serve as a guide in navigating your internship. Remember that you can always add to your initial goals, and contact the Office of Career Strategy if you have questions or need support in identifying or accomplishing them.
Next, schedule a meeting with your supervisor (by phone if you are not able to meet in person) to discuss the logistics of your position as well as mutual expectations. Topics for discussion include: your start and end dates, daily hours, dress codes, your physical work space and if you have access to a computer, identification needed for tax documentation, requests for time off (such as a wedding or other important event, keep these to a minimum), and your Learning Plan.
Follow up on your conversation with an email summarizing your discussion and conveying your enthusiasm for the position. Let your supervisor know how to contact you prior to your start date (review the sample internship confirmation letter as a guide).
Are you interning abroad? There are numerous additional logistical considerations while you prepare. Please review each item in Yale's International Travel Toolkit, and review the checklist.
Become Oriented to the Workplace: Ask for a tour of the facility at the beginning of your internship. Ask if you will need keys or employee identification for access to the building. Inquire about the payroll process and how to keep track of your hours so you are paid in a timely manner. Eat lunch with your coworkers to learn more about their work in the organization (also a great way to network!).
Take Initiative and Ask Questions: Arrange a meeting with your supervisor to discuss the organization, including specific challenges and any recent changes. Request reading material that may be insightful and further contribute to your understanding of the organization or division, helping you place your role in better context. When given an assigned, ask for a clear sense of what is expected of you, a deadline for completion, and where the project falls among other priorities. You should never say "I don't have anything to do" - seize the opportunity to assume new responsibilities and learn from professionals around you.
Keep an Internship Journal: Keeping a journal will help you assess your experience and make it easier to update your resume in the fall. Journal entries do not need to be lengthy but should capture the substance of your responsibilities, specific accomplishments, and your insights into the work you are doing (new industry knowledge, new skills). Maintain your journal on a weekly basis by setting aside 15 minutes every Friday to write down a few key points.
Be Professional: Arrive at work early and do not leave early (even if others are doing so). Respect the organization's dress code; if you have to ask if an outfit is appropriate for the workplace, it probably isn't. Keep conversation professional; you want to establish a reputation based on your work, not your personal life. Stay positive and optimistic during stressful periods. Don't engage in negative conversation about the organization, department, or fellow colleagues.
Develop Your Network: Conducting on-site informational interviews during your internship is an effective way to learn more about the organization and industry as well as develop your network and contacts. Try to facilitate at least two informational interviews during your internship. Be sure to discuss this with your supervisor beforehand to obtain approval and ask if they may assist in connecting you to colleagues and/or other departments. View the Informational Interviewing resource for more information and sample questions.
Sometimes, even with the best planning, problems can arise during an internship: conflicts with coworkers or supervisors, lack of supervision, or too many administrative tasks instead of expected substantial projects. If you are faced with such challenges, we suggest the following action plan:
If you fail to resolve your issue, call the Office of Career Strategy at 1-203-432-0800 to talk with a career advisor. We can help guide you to your next step.
Before leaving your internship, be sure you have fulfilled all your responsibilities and tie up any loose ends. Ask your direct supervisor for a recommendation letter or to serve as a reference at a later date. You can also approach colleagues you've developed a close working relationship with. Making this request while still in your internship will yield a more effective recommendation as your performance will be fresh in their mind. After leaving the organization, send a written thank you letter to your direct supervisor and any other employees who served as mentors to you over the summer. Your letter should convey your appreciation for the experience, a sense of what you learned, gratitude for any references written on your behalf, and your school and contact information.