Sunday, August 12, 2012

Takeaways from my internship

Advice for work:

1. At the beginning of the summer, make sure you set up the metrics of your internship with your supervisor. In other words, make sure you know what qualities will make you a good intern in the eyes of your boss. This will also help you think about the end product of the internship: what you get out of it, what you deliver to the company, and what standards work for you.

Important questions to ask include:
  • What are the deliverables? What are some tangible things I will bring to the table at the end of the summer? For me, these would include a written strategic and operational plan, research on potential grant makers, and a letter of inquiry for several local banks.
  • What is expected of me? This includes expectations for how quickly you turn in assignments, how you should approach asking for more responsibilities, and the expectations for coming into the office. I had really flexible hours and would often show up pretty late. My boss didn't say anything about it until the very last week, but by then it was already too late to change. 
  • What am I being measured against? How do I exceed the legacies of past interns? What do I need to do so that you consider me a successful intern at the end of the summer? 
2. Don't leave the office without asking your co-workers if there is anything you can help them out with. My boss actually praised me about on this during the mid-internship review. 

3. Ask to learn the skills you want to gain. If you don't know what skills you want to gain, ask to learn the most marketable skills. That ways, you at least leave with something desirable. If you're at a nonprofit and don't know what skill you want to gain, ask to learn about development. Development is generally the fundraising side. I've learned that I don't care for development. However, knowing how to write successful grant proposals is a highly desirable skill. The program side of a nonprofit is also a good place to start.

4. Ask for a mid-internship review and an exit interview.

5. Write a personal mission statement. This is a good exercise to figure out what you want to purpose of your internship to be. Also, it's a chance to ask yourself, what must be true in order for me to be happy at this internship? Then, make sure those factors which are critical to your happiness exist at your internship.

6. Make sure your organization is ready for your arrival. For example, I didn't get a key until the last two weeks of my internship, so I almost never knew when I was coming in; it always depended on who was in the office that day. They ordered a key two weeks after I arrived and the order was lost, so it took even longer than usual to get me the key. Some places really will forget to prepare certain things for the intern. I should have asked about the key situation in the email I sent them a week before the internship started.

What I learned:

I found that working at my particular nonprofit was a nice ease into the the working lifestyle because my hours were flexible and my deadlines were nebulous. However, I also didn't find the work particularly challenging. I was doing a lot of research that I felt like anyone could do. I also didn't feel like the work I did actually impacted the organization. I liked working on the strategic and operational plan because it would really shape the organization, but I couldn't see the impact as much when I researched potential funders. One thing my boss suggested I work on during the mid-internship review was seeing how the smaller projects I worked on fit in the 'big picture'. However, I often found that difficult to do, especially with the really small projects I was assigned. I suppose that's why I need to work on it more. I will not return to the nonprofit sector in the near future.

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Maira Gall