Tuesday, November 1, 2016

5 Factors to Make Student Internship Experiences Most Successful!

By now most college students have heard employers (73% according to NACE-National Association of Colleges & Employers), are looking to hire students with an internship or other related experience on their resume. We also know that employers are interested in soft skills, emotional intelligence, communication abilities, problem-solving/analytical skills, leadership and the ability to work in teams. While that is great for the employer, what should students look for in a quality internship experience?


Coaching/Mentoring – Having access to your supervisor is important, will they provide significant constructive feedback on a regular basis?  Can they coach you on the important elements of the business and give you a perspective on what working for the organization is like on a long term basis?

Do company research, talk to prior interns or other professionals at the organization to find out what their career experiences have been like, and ask questions to determine organizational culture and leaderships styles.  This is where strong social media networks like LinkedIn or sites like Glassdoor might be helpful.

High Impact Projects (related to your academic major are important) – Make sure that the type of work or projects planned for your internship are relevant to your academic major in order to provide  a quality resume building experience. It is crucial to walk away from your experience with 1-2 significant accomplishments for your resume and to be able to provide effective examples in interviews.

This is not to say you won’t also do repetitive basic tasks (almost all professional positions involve some level of basic tasks), but a good rule of thumb to go by is the  80/20 principle. 80% of your assignments should be career/academic related and the other 20% fall into the category of other duties as assigned, regardless do them all well and with enthusiasm. One significant way to find out is to ask! When you are asked if you have any questions at the end of an interview, ask “What significant projects or priorities do you have allocated for this position?”

Networking Exposure – What kind of exposure will you have to organizational leaders, department heads or other company stakeholders?

It pays to do good work and establish professional credibility.  Every internship does not turn into a job offer but the broader your exposure within the organization or to outside stakeholders, the greater the opportunity to expand your professional network. One of those contacts may turn into a future job prospect!

Training and Skill Development –Will you be offered specialized professional training in areas related to your major or profession of choice?  Make sure you will have ample opportunity to build concrete skills that you can advertise on your resume or talk about in the interview. Also take the opportunity to build some of the softer skills like leadership, teamwork, and communication.

Find out if interns are offered or have the opportunity to participate in team-building activities (during or outside of work hours), specialized public speaking and presentation training, or if opportunities to cross-train and job shadow in other functional areas exist.

Will the internship expose you to the work culture of an industry or specific company that you are interested in exploring?

Perhaps one of the biggest benefits of an internship is to experience a career from within the organization. Learning about a profession from lectures, text books, and research can only tell you so much.  To find out if a career/organization is a good fit nothing beats firsthand knowledge. This is a perfect way to analyze if the opportunity is a good fit for you.

Internships provide valuable training and experience for students to explore careers, don’t short change yourself, do the research and ask informed questions before choosing the internship experience that provides the best opportunity for you!

Written by:  Angela Wolfe, St. Ambrose University
Assistant Director 

Blogger - Career Specialist - Leading Student/Employer Engagement

Edited by:  Stacy Hays, Morningside College
Career Counselor, Career Services