Making the Most of an Internship or Co-Op

internshipHello, summer! It’s right around the corner and so is internship season! Internships and co-ops can prove to be a beneficial partnership for both the students and employers as long as there is a sturdy foundation which can help support a positive working relationship.

Just like any other working relationship, it takes effort on both sides to form a collaborative partnership. Here are a few steps that students and employers can take in order to maximize the worth and benefits of an internship and co-op.

For the Employers

  • Make Introductions:  Success of an internship and co-op is based on starting it off on the right foot. An employee who has worked in a company for years or even a few months knows his or her way around the office, is most likely familiar with the names of coworkers and knows where to find office supplies or who to seek with certain questions. Durations of co-ops vary from a month or two to 6 months. Regardless of the length of assignment, help to acclimate the student to the office and point out familiar faces that the student can reach out to. While these may sound like minute details, for some students, co-ops and internships are the first exposure a student has had to the workplace setting.
  • Map out the Work: I think it’s safe to say that no matter what type of work environment you’re in, no day is exactly the same. There are new challenges and opportunities that are presented. While it’s important for the interns to embrace those situations, it is also important for the employers to have a guideline of what the interns will be working on each day. Whether it’s mapping out what some daily activities will be to major projects and milestones, it’s great for the interns to have a road map to go by. The market is full of innovative talent –so encourage them to share project ideas and allow interns to participate on meetings when appropriate-they will help to bring a fresh spin to the work.
  • Form Mentorships: While the same goes for the hiring managers, mentors not only help to acclimate a new employee to the office but can continue the mentoring partnership long after an internship is completed.

For the Students

  • Be Prepared to Get Prepared: Each company and internship will offer you different experience. No matter what the opportunity, there will be something that you can pull away that will help prepare you for future classes or future work situations. Go into each opportunity with an open mind. This opportunity is helping to the lay the groundwork for your future career.
  • Set Goals: Internships and co-ops are just as much of a learning experience as any classroom class is. Just as you take notes during class (well, maybe that’s not always true!), keep a log of your experience during the internship. Those ideas could eventually be used for an upcoming academic project or even for a future interview.  While there might be more formalized objectives that a manager has stated for the internship, what is it exactly that you want to take away from that role?
  • Get involved: Whether it’s chatting with coworkers at lunch or volunteering to participate on a work team, there are multiple ways to get involved in an office setting. This will help to enrich the internship experience. For example, at DAVIS, there are different project teams that employees can be involved with as well as teams, like the DAVIS softball team, for coworkers to hang out and have fun. Continue to foster the relationships that are formed during the internship even after it ends.

To students, look at internships and co-ops not as a stepping stone but rather as an opportunity to gain more experience and begin forming valuable networking partnerships. To employers, a well- run internship and co-op program is the feeder system for a company’s growth and innovation. If established correctly, these partnerships can develop and continue into future success.

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