Grad Student How-To: Getting the Most Out of Your Internship
The ideal intern is committed, creative, organized, ambitious, independent, and able to crack a smile, whether meeting a celebrity or folding socks. - Emily Weiss
Internship opportunities at NYU are abundant. What company would turn down free labor from an NYU graduate student?! As part of my MSW program, I have to complete 21 hours a week at an internship each semester. Not all programs require internships, but even so internships are often an opportunity to gain access to a position that you are not yet qualified for.
NYU students can find out how to get connected to internship opportunities here.
I have learned how to make the most of my time at my internship placement after having completed 2 semesters as an intern in a drop-in for runaway and homeless youth and getting settled into my second year internship at The New York City Department of Youth and Community Development. I am excited to share how to make the most of this awesome journey.
Connect to people outside your department
This piece of advice really enhanced my intern experience. I was able to mix and mingle with people across multiple departments and learn about opportunities in other departments. I was able to ask my supervisor If I could shadow staff in other departments to see what their roles looked like, that included volunteering to chaperone trips with the recreation space and getting to pick at the minds of our legal department. It expanded greatly how much knowledge I was walking away from the experience with.
Your fellow interns are support, not competition
The intern world can lend itself to becoming a competitive environment because more often than not there are more interns interested in jobs than there are jobs interested in interns. Treating your fellow interns with respect and supporting them will probably help your chances at landing the job, not hurt it. Your fellow interns are struggling navigating this situation just as much you are, and everyone benefits when you work with each other, not against each other. I found my fellow interns were the only safe space to bounce off my ideas and vent about my frustrations. The bonds I built with them made the experience just that much more valuable.
You may not be an employee, but treat this like a job
The level of professionalism you display should be that of an employee within the company. If everyone in your office is wearing a 3 piece suit, you should probably invest in a 3 piece suit. The largest compliment I ever got at my placement was how many people did not realize I was an intern until it was my day to leave. I showed up every day knowing the work I contributed was valuable and executed it at a level that was equal to the employees. I recommend going to trainings and staff development opportunities, it provides you with valuable insight of how these organizations work and is often a great time to informally connect with administrative staff.
Take in everything available to you and use it as catalyst for your own professional and personal growth.
Most importantly, learn from it!
I have found that my internships have been where I have learned the most within my MSW program. Your compensation may not be monetary, but you get the chance to walk away with valuable experience and learning.