Thursday, May 11, 2017

How to Be Successful at Your Internship - JCFP Style

Congratulations on being selected to participate in the Jaggar Community Fellows Program!  It is a very prestigious program and one that is sure to greatly impact your summer.  There are many incredible employers doing fabulous work who cannot wait to meet you and see your work within their organizations.  Always remember, as you will be working in a not-for-profit company, every assignment given is, in some small or large way, helping contribute to a greater cause.  Whether this is your first internship or you are an intern expert, here are a few things to help you navigate the 10-week long intern road ahead.

Always remind yourself that you are an intern.  While the Center for Career and Professional Development prides itself on matching JCFP interns with companies that give their interns real work (not the coffee runs or photocopying), there are times where you may be doing everyday tasks.  Everyone in every position has to do these things at some point so do not take it the wrong way.  Interns are there to learn first-hand what it is like to work in a particular position.  You are new, green, and at the bottom of the totem pole.  Let this experience mold you, even the less exciting tasks to the huge projects that you might get to work on.

Dress to impress.  Definitely beating a dead horse with this as it is a mantra of CPD, but it could not be more true.  If you are dressed appropriately, others will see the seriousness that you bring to the job and you yourself also feel more confident.  Now, this comes with an asterisk (*) … some positions do not require suits or business casual every day.  Clearly, this is a tip for those in offices, etc.  If you are doing manual labor or spending many days outside, clearly a suit, for example, might not be the ideal choice.  Have common sense and dress appropriately for the situation at hand.

Be courteous and cordial to everyone that you come into contact with throughout the internship, but especially at the beginning.  You do not know which departments collaborate with one another, who is friends with who, and the dynamic of the office as a whole.  Be sure to take note of these connections quickly.  You may be able to utilize these same relationships when you are working on assignments.  Also a side note, everyone loves food, especially baked things, so it never hurts to bring in something for everyone to enjoy.  Yes, it’s shamelessly convincing people you are great, but as long as the food is good, it usually works and you typically get to share in the deliciousness, so a win for everyone!

Always look for more things to do.  You signed up for JCFP because you wanted an internship experience.  Now, you have to work for it, but with each new task and day comes more experiences and opportunities.  Do not let it go by.  If your supervisor is out or too busy to assign you something new, seek something out!  Perhaps you can take the initiative to begin a new project that you know needs to be done or asking someone else in the office what they need help with.  Displaying ambition and interest to your employer not only reaffirms your desire to be an intern, but it also may lead to even more meaningful tasks.

Feeding off of the last tip, give the internship some time!  Everyone needs to get to know you, especially your new supervisor.  He/she may be a bit hesitant to give you incredibly large or important assignments on the first day, or even the first week.  As with everything, you need to show your strengths and worth.  Just put your best foot forward and be patient.  Allow your supervisor to build a trusting relationship with you.  While it might be difficult to wait, it will pay off in the long run and it never hurts for you to propose things that you could do (see previous tip).

A personal note from a former JCFP intern to the newest class – The non-profit world is a special place!  There are a good number of you who have probably never been exposed to it before or have even considered that there is an entire working force in the not-for-profit sector.  In the end, you may realize that you do not like it at all.  Thank goodness this is a no risk situation!  What would you have done had you gone throughout your entire undergraduate career to realize you dislike the career that you worked so hard to enter into?  Now, you can decipher the various aspects of your major and the numerous jobs that you can acquire with it.  And, what happens if you love your job and even the non-profit world?  Well then, you have found your niche in the workforce and we sincerely hope you not only take advantage of this experience, but propel yourself forward to even greater heights as you work toward something you love to do each day!

Go out, be your best selves, and do great things!!  Best of luck!

By Alexandra Wurglics

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