Congratulations on securing your experience! Now it’s time to plan your experience to make the most of your professional development.
Before Your Experience
Goals will assist with 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.
- Reflect on your upcoming experience: why did you choose it and what do you hope to gain?
- Consider drafting a Learning Plan as a guide, which is described briefly in this short video to help you evaluate your goals, create a plan, and track your progress with your supervisor.
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 positions as well as mutual expectations. Topics for discussion include: start and end dates; daily hours; dress codes; your physical workspace; if you have access to a computer; identification needed for tax documentation; and any needed requests for time off (such as a wedding or other important event, keep these to a minimum).
Request a Mid-Summer Check In Meeting
Another item that OCS suggests you raise at this time with your supervisor is to request a mid-summer check in. The mid-summer check in is an opportunity for you to get feedback from your supervisor halfway through the summer. Establishing this at the start allows both parties to know that they will be meeting at the midpoint to discuss how things are going. This check in is strictly for the student’s personal professional development and not something that will be shared with anyone else. Ideally the student is receiving feedback throughout the internship and not just at this meeting.
Follow up on your conversation
Send an email summarizing your discussion and conveying your enthusiasm for the position. This will show you are serious about your position and establish professionalism from the start.
Is your experience abroad?
Visit Yale’s International Travel Toolkit for additional considerations.
During Your Experience
Become Oriented to the Workplace
Ask for a tour of the facility and 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 any specific challenges. 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.
Arrive at work early and do not leave early (even if others are). Respect the organization’s dress code. 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
- Connect with professionals and alums in your field of interest to enhance your experience and learn about different careers, organizations, and job opportunities. You can do this by conducting on-site informational interviews during your experience.
- 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.
Keep a Journal
Keeping a journal will help you assess your experience, check in with yourself periodically to see where you are in your goals, and make it easier to update your resume. Journal entries can be brief and should capture the substance of your responsibilities, specific accomplishments, and insights into your work (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. Consider some of the following prompts (adapted from Mary A. King and H. Frederick Sweitzer, The Successful Internship):
- How has your work changed since you first started?
- What do you think is your main contribution to the site?
- Has the experience to date been rewarding? Why or why not?
- What new soft/hard skills have you learned since the beginning of the experience, and how might they help you?
- Has the experience made you think about possible careers in this field? Another field?
- What feedback did you receive today or this week and how did it make you feel?
- What are some of the advantages/disadvantages of working in this field?
- What have you learned about yourself so far?
- Record key phrases you’ve learned on the job and the contact information of new people.
Mid-Summer Check In Meeting
Curious as to how well you are doing since you don’t get much one-on-one time with your supervisor? Interested in discussing the idea of taking on an additional project (in addition to continuing to do your current work) to learn a new skill? Seeking advice on building your network before the summer is over? Perhaps your supervisor is always busy and you have questions you have been meaning to ask them. All of these are why the mid-summer check in has lots of benefits for your own professional development. Keep in mind that this is only for your personal use.
Addressing Issues During the Experience
Sometimes, even with the best planning, issues may 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 the 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 need help, 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 your responsibilities.
- Ask your direct supervisor for a recommendation letter or to serve as a reference at a later date. 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 thank you note 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.
- Update your resume as soon as your experience is complete and refer back to your journal for fresh content.
- Spend some time on your LinkedIn page by updating your LinkedIn Profile with the new experience; connecting with your summer colleagues via LinkedIn; and consider asking a supervisor or colleague from your summer experience to write a LinkedIn recommendation for you.
Connecting with the Office of Career Strategy
While you’re in the midst of your experience, remember that the Office of Career Strategy is open all summer and ready to assist you, so don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment. (Yale Career Link appointments are in EST).