More Than Just Getting Coffee: Students vs. Employers on Making the Most of an Internship

Internships are an invaluable part of the college experience today. In most undergrad programs, they are required. Still, even if they aren’t, internship experience is something employers want and look for in their search for applicants. Internships are also great opportunities for students because they provide you not only with real world job experience but also give an inside look into a company, industry or even entire field you are interested in.

As a recent graduate, I like to think that I have a bit of experience when it comes to internships – probably the only thing I have the most experience in in the Resch office.

When first getting started in the world of PR, I had a goal that before I graduated I wanted to get experience in different aspects of this industry. In-house and agency were two givens but due to Michigan State’s close proximity to Lansing, there were numerous opportunities in government as well. After trying out all of these over the course of five internships, I found my place in an agency.

Something important to remember, though is that the point of an internship is to learn. To see what working in the field is like and to use the experience to decide if you want to further pursue it.

To get the most out of an internship, whether you’re applying or hiring, what should you take into consideration?

To Students: 

Be proactive. 

The last thing you as an intern want to be is someone who waits for work to fall into their lap or simply is told what to do. If it’s not offered to you, ask for an opportunity to sit down with your boss and talk about what you’d like to learn and what you’d like to get out of the internship. This will set the expectations beyond the job description for both of you.

Be appreciative of all opportunities.

Are you stuffing letters into envelopes one day? Donor relations. Are you dropping off mail to Senator offices? Getting familiar with government staff and who is who in Lansing. Are you simply posting on Facebook everyday? Social media management.

Take all of the tasks that may seem mundane at the time as part of the process and industry. Millennials especially have the reputation for being entitled and unappreciative so being in this age group, we have to work extra hard to prove our work ethic. As an intern, it’s expected that you’ll have some non-glamourous work to do but your willingness to do it and attitude along with way will go far in the eyes of your boss.

Maintain those connections.

Even if an internship wasn’t everything that you expected, keep in touch with colleagues. Social media has made this a lot easier to do with LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. You never know when connections like that will come in handy one day.

To Employers: 

Ensure the work you’re giving is valuable.

Many interns are hired on with the expectation that they are going to do some grunt work, but it’s important to member that they came to learn more about what you do. Their work should be opportunities for them to learn, as well. Sit down with them at the beginning of their internship and ask what they, as a student, would like to learn from working with you and your staff. What tricks of the trade and aspects of the industry can you teach them?

Foster an atmosphere that promotes dialogue

Young people especially want to feel that if they need something, their voices will be heard. This, coupled with the fact that interns are just starting out means they will most likely be asking a lot of questions. With these questions though, also come great ideas. Having an open door policy and an atmosphere that promotes dialogue ensures that both interns’ concerns and ideas are heard and received.

Show appreciation for an intern’s work.

We were all new to the industry once and remember how nerve wracking it can be when you’re just starting out. Make your new intern feel welcome and ensure that they are seen as an important member of the team. They want to impress you, so a little reassurance goes a long way.

Intern-employer relationships don’t have to be overly complicated. When both see the experience as a learning opportunity, interns and their employers are able to ensure that the internship process stays beneficial.

- Sarah