Congratulations on securing your experience! It is now important to complete action items before, during, and after your experience to make the most of your professional development.
Before Your Experience
Create a Learning Plan to help you in articulating your goals for the experience. A Learning Plan can assist as a useful tool in initial conversations with your 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.
Schedule a meeting with your supervisor. The meeting can be 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 workspace 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. Send 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).
Is your experience abroad? There are numerous additional logistical considerations while you prepare, visit Yale’s International Travel Toolkit.
During Your Experience
Become Oriented to the Workplace: Ask for a tour of the facility at the beginning. 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 a better context. When given an assignment, 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 a 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 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). Respect the organization’s dress code; if you have to ask if an outfit is appropriate for the workplace, it probably isn’t. Keep the conversation professional; you want to establish a reputation based on your work, not your personal life. Stay optimistic during stressful periods. Don’t engage in negative conversations about the organization or fellow colleagues.
Develop Your Network: Conducting on-site informational interviews during your experience 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 experience. 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.
- Summer Experiences Pathway: Whether you are interning, doing research, volunteering, or participating in any other experience, this Pathway is a helpful guide to make the most of your summer! It is self-guided, so you can go at your own pace.
- Professional Development Reflection Questions: Consistent reflection clarifies what you are learning, addresses how you’re meeting your goals, and helps develop your professional aspirations. Upon adding a new experience, you’ll have access to the prompts within 24 hours. Reflections are not shared with employers; they are offered to help you record your professional and personal growth during your experience.
Addressing Problems During the Experience
Sometimes, even with the best planning, problems can arise: 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:
- Discuss your situation with an individual who does not work for the organization, such as an OCS career advisor, to obtain an objective viewpoint. Try to pinpoint where the problem lies.
- Brainstorm ways to improve the situation, including ways you can be flexible, and write down your ideas.
- Meet with your supervisor (or other individuals with whom the problem exists), explain the situation from your point of view, and review your ideas. Avoid accusations, and ask the individual(s) for their perception.
- Try to achieve a consensus and resolve the issue. Do not share your concern with others in the organization who were not involved in the meeting.
If you fail to resolve your issue, contact the Office of Career Strategy to talk with a career advisor who will help guide you.
Finishing the Experience
Before leaving your experience, 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 the experience 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. 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 contact information.