So, You Wanna Be An Intern? Four Tips To A Successful Internship

Ahhh the internship experience! It's something that many college students go through at one point or another.

Within my major, Tourism, Hospitality, and Event Management, we're actually required to complete an internship before we graduate. We're first prepared by completing 320 hours of field experience. Then, while we're actually working the internship during our junior or senior year, we take a 12 credit hour "class" and complete reports and a portfolio to turn in.  This may seem intimidating, but it's actually a really great thing! Employers love to see that graduates have applicable knowledge.  Seeing that knowledge on a resume in the form of an internship increases your chances of getting hired. So, again, while it may have first seemed like a drag to have to do an internship for school, I've realized that I'm going to be much better off once the cap and gown have been put away next Spring (yikes, don't remind me!).  

I'm currently in the process of completing my required internship, and just finished up my first week on the job! Because I chose to do an internship outside of my home state of Indiana, I've learned a lot, both positive and negative, about the entire process. And since I'm such a nice person, I thought I'd share some insight with you all on the good and the bad when it comes to searching for and starting an internship. I know this introduction has been a bit lengthy, so without further adieu, here it is- my list of internship do's and don'ts:

1. DO YOUR RESEARCH

Alright, you have your resume filled out, and you're ready to get some experience! But how? Internships will most generally not just fall into your lap. It's important to know exactly what kind of work you're looking for, and base your search most heavily off of that. If you know someone who works in your area of interest, talk to them about potential internship positions, or how they got started.  If not, don't worry, there's always the internet. To get off to a good start, have an idea about the way your future job sector works.  Different companies start and end their hiring seasons at different times, and it's important to begin your search as early as possible so you don't miss out on a good opportunity. Luckily for me, my internship advisor provided a ton of great resources and internship search engines that applied to all the different aspects of my major.  I actually scored my internship from an email she sent out about the position. 

2. DO MORE RESEARCH

Think you've found an internship that suits you? Good! It's important that their description matches your interest, but you should look into them even more. Think of this part of the process as an interview, does this company fit your needs?  Ask question like:

  • Where are they located?
  • What kind of reputation does the company have?
  • Is there a difference in the cost of living in this new city?
  • And if it's important to you, will you be paid? 

These are just a few general questions that you should think about when you think you've found a good one. A great website I use when checking out a company is Glassdoor. It's free, and provides a ton of inside information from people who have worked there. Check it out! 

3. DON'T GET TUNNEL VISION!

Hindsight is always 20/20, right? Looking back on the search/application process of an internship, this was definitely a problem I had. I found a few different internships with companies that I fell in love with. Caution: this is a bad bad BAD thing, for multiple reasons.

First: while it is okay to really like a company and their work, I'd advise not falling in love with them too quickly...like, before you've even applied. If you don't receive an interview, or worse, don't get the position after an interview you thought went well, it can be heart breaking. Nobody likes being turned down.  It's important to remain professional throughout the entire process, and keeping a level head will ensure that you don't wind up hurt.  Additionally, not getting this tunnel vision will allow you to keep your mind open to other great opportunities.

Second: Let's say you nab that interview with your dream company and you nailed it! Congrats, you got the internship! You're so excited to get to wherever you're going that you forget about all of the little (but important) details. This type of tunnel vision happened to me.  While my job is GREAT, there are other aspects that I'm not so happy about. To begin with, I never thought about how long my commute would be. I'm staying with family in a city close by, but because this is my first time in Texas, I didn't realize how far my drive would be to and from work everyday. In case you were wondering, it's close to an hour.  It also never occurred to me that it could be hard to have a social life when you know no one. I mean, I go to a school where I meet people all the time, how could it be so hard anywhere else? Well, when you're living in a town where the average person's age doesn't fall between 18-22, it's different. And don't even get me started on how different the interstates and driving is down here...I could go on and on about all of the little things I didn't think about. Of course, there will always be things you aren't prepared for, but you must think about other aspects besides the internship itself.

4. DO GO FOR IT!

Once you've found an internship that matches up with your criteria, and have accepted the position, get ready for the experience of a lifetime.  Whether your internship is paid or unpaid, you'll benefit from it.  You'll learn so much bout who you are as a professional, hone in on exactly what you like and don't like in a job, and gain priceless skills that will better you in your future career! You've accepted the position because you want the experience, why not get the most out of it?  Make sure to take advantage of every opportunity that your boss gives you, it'll make you a better intern/ professional and show your boss that you could be a great full-time hire. Even if you know you won't be offered a full-time position or will be going back to school, you should still put your all into the job.  Having good references are valuable, and your boss will have only positive things to say to future employers if you perform at 100%.

Here's a great video that gives tips about the entire process- from resume building, to interviewing, to being on the job!

 If you're interested in getting more information about internships, check out some of these other great blog posts from other WeAreIU writers:

Good luck with your internship search!

Senior Speechin,

Em

About The Author
Emily AlfordClass of 2015. Tourism, Hospitality, and Event Management major. Journalism certificate.

5th Year Senior at Indiana University. Tourism, Hospitality, and Event Management major with a certificate in Journalism. Dog Owner. Sorority Member. Texas Intern. Social Media Afficionado.  People Watcher Extraordinaire. Dreamer & Doer. Hoosier Native, Small Town Girl. Friendly Face. :)