Get That Internship! Wrap Up

Over the course of this spring semester, I covered steps in the internship search process. As a wrap-up to the series, here is the complete listing of “Get That Internship!” posts. Enjoy!

How to Find an Internship

How to Target Your Resume for Internship Applications

Internship Applications: What Do You Need?

How to Prepare for Internship Interviews

Ace Your Internship Interviews

Appropriate Interview Follow-Up

What to Do When You Receive an Internship Offer

Start Preparing for Your Summer Internship

Top Three Tips for Internship Success

I hope you found this internship advice useful, and I hope it helped you in completing a successful internship search. Best of luck in the next part of your internship journey!

Top Three Tips for Internship Success

Summer internships will be starting very soon. Just in case you’re not prepared for that yet, here’s your pre-summer internship to-do list.

Once you get started and settle into your new work situation, it’s time to be strategic and set yourself up to make the most of the experience. Here are my top three tips for internship success:

  1. Go above and beyond the call of duty. Hopefully, you will have plenty of work to keep you busy at your internship. Some of that work you might not be super excited to do, like filing or making copies. Do this work without complaint, and treat these tasks with the same respect you show to other more “important” assignments. Sometimes, you’ll complete all of your work and have free time on your hands. Make that time count by looking for more to do and asking others if there is anything you can do to help them. An internship is your opportunity to make a good professional impression and gain as much experience as possible. Approach the entire experience with gusto!
  2. Network with everyone. One of the greatest benefits of an internship is meeting professionals in your field. You’ll learn the ropes of your future profession from seasoned veterans and maybe even find a mentor. But in the realm of professional relationships, connecting with co-workers NOT directly in your line of work is often overlooked. An important lesson to learn in networking is that anyone could become a valuable contact. Just because you think that a person in a different line of work can be of no help to you professionally, keep in mind that you never know where life may lead you. Get to know a variety of people at your internship and understand that variety is what makes a good network.
  3. Challenge yourself. Who really wants to push themselves during the summer? Summer is all about relaxing, isn’t it? It could be, but you’re an intern. Challenge yourself to try new things or take on assignments that are a little uncomfortable. By pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone, you will grow personally and professionally. And it’s this kind of growth that makes your internship a great one.

There are many, many more ways to be a successful intern. For more tips, see my Pinterest board, Best Practices for the Workplace.

Photo from Number 17

Start Preparing for Your Summer Internship

Ready for your summer internship? Brace yourself – You’re only about a month to a month and a half from starting. And I’m sure you know how quickly the last few weeks of the semester will fly by.

start here

Here is your summer internship preparation to-do list for the next few weeks:

  • Confirm all important logistical details: Your start date, what time you need to arrive at work, what type of workspace you will have (ex. Will you have a desk?), and how much time you have for a lunch break. As you get closer to your start date, consider a travel test run or two, figuring out the best transportation and route options as well as establishing familiarity with the area if it’s new to you.
  • Do your homework. Think that just because the interview process is over, you can stop researching the company? Think again. Continue to learn as much as you can about your host organization to be prepared for any work that might come your way. Set up a Google Alert for the company to get any news, blog posts, and other online content related to the organization emailed directly to you. Start reading industry blogs and publications to understand trends and the competition. Spend more time reviewing the company’s website to be as familiar as possible with the organization. Connect with the organization and future co-workers on social media: LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc. Make sure your social media profiles are “clean” before you connect, and keep them clean permanently.
  • Check in with your company contact a week out from your start date. Touch base via phone or email. Ask for any details you may still need, like parking information. Ask if there are any last minute things you can do to prepare for your first day. Reiterate your excitement to start your internship.
  • Prepare for your first day. Figure out what you will wear on your first day and make sure it’s clean, pressed, and ready to go. Plan your lunch break by packing a lunch or getting money to buy lunch. Gather any materials you need, like a notepad and pen or any materials the company provided to you (ex. info packet, parking permit, etc.). Go to bed early and get a good night’s sleep (try to do this for a few nights in advance for the best results). Set your alarm to go off a little earlier than usual to give yourself plenty of time to get ready and head for the office.

As you complete all of your prep work, don’t forget to step back for a moment and recognize your success. You secured an internship and are on your way to developing as a young professional. This is an exciting time. Don’t lose sight of this excitement through any first-day jitters.

Photo by sharyn morrow / Creative Commons licensed BY-NC-ND 2.0

What To Do When You Receive an Internship Offer

So you found, applied for, and interviewed for some summer internships. And after a little bit of a wait, you receive the call you’ve been hoping for: You are offered an internship!


For many students, receiving an internship offer is the first major employment offer experience. How do you handle the process? Here are some tips:

  1. Take your time. Can you ask for time to think about the offer? Yes, you can. However, understand that there are limits. Can you have weeks to think about it? No. A few days? Sure. Here is an example of how to ask for some time: “Thank you for the internship offer. I am excited about the opportunity to work at _______. This is an important decision, and I would like more time to consider the offer. When do you need an answer by?”
  2. Get all of the details. When would you be expected to start working? Is the internship paid or unpaid? Consider your own details, too. Do you have vacations plans already in place for which you would need time off from work? What costs might you personally incur for the internship, such as the cost of commuting? Before you say yes, you want to have all of the details ironed out. If the date the employer would like you to begin is before the end of the semester, negotiate a slightly later start date. If you need time off for a planned vacation, clear this now and not at the last minute. If it’s an unpaid internship that you will cost you in terms of commuting, could the organization provide you a lunch stipend to offset the cost?
  3. Evaluate the internship. Ideally, you focused your applications on internships you really wanted. It’s still likely that there were certain opportunities that you were more excited for than others. Take a step back and reevaluate the opportunity that is being offered to you in relation to your goals for an internship:
    1. Is this the work you want to do? Look at the job functions again and assess how the internship will fit into your overall career goals.
    2. Will you have the opportunity to work on challenging projects and build upon your skills and strengths? Would you enjoy the work?
    3. Do you like the organization? When you visited for your interview, did you feel like the work environment was a good “fit” for you?
    4. Are there any perks or future opportunities with this position?
  4. Accept or decline the offer. Make your final decision and get back to the employer in a timely manner. Speak directly with your contact at the organization. Don’t leave a voicemail for this type of message. Follow up with a written confirmation via email.

Once you accept an internship offer, contact any other organizations with which you applied to let them know that you have accepted an internship and would like to withdraw your name from their candidate pool. Understand that it is unethical for you to continue interviewing after accepting an internship offer, and you risk damaging your professional reputation if you renege (i.e. change your mind and turn down the internship after already accepting the position). Stay firm in your decision.

The more common concern students have is receiving an offer for one internship while still waiting to hear from their top choice opportunity. In this case, inform the organization offering you an internship that you are wrapping up the recruiting process and that you hope to make your decision by a specific date. Keep that date within one week. It isn’t fair to string them along and delay their process, especially if there is a strong chance that you may decline. Plus, anything more than a week will definitely tell them that their opportunity is not your first choice.

Follow up with your top choice employer to see if they have made a decision. Let them know that you have received another offer, but that their opportunity is your first choice. While this may speed up their process if you are their top candidate, be prepared for the employer to tell you that they will not have a decision made by the time you need it. When this happens, it’s difficult decision time.

Do you have any concerns when it comes to accepting or declining an internship opportunity? What seems to be the trickiest part of the process?

Intern Spotlight: Suzanne Knight

Suzanne Knight

Suzanne Knight (May 2013)
Major: Social Work
Minor: Health & Family Studies
Internship: Administrative Intern with the Juvenile Justice and Mental Health Divisions of the Rock County Department of Human Services


How did you find out about this internship? What interested you in the opportunity?

As a social work major, we are required to complete an internship for our last 12 credits before we graduate. I knew that I wanted to get the best experience that I could, as this would be my first time being in the social work field. I was interested in obtaining an internship that was unlike any experience that I have previously had. I wanted to gain experience and knowledge that I had not formerly had. I was interested in an internship in the Juvenile Justice division, because I did not know much about the juvenile justice piece of social work, and it was intriguing to me. I also wanted to complete an internship in administrative social work, because I am hoping to be an administrative social worker one day, after I receive my Master’s degree in Social Work with an emphasis in Leadership.

I found out about this internship through one of my professors who works very closely with my supervisor. She approached me about this internship, as she thought I would be a great fit for the position. I immediately contacted the agency, and the rest is history.

Describe your internship experience.

I have many responsibilities at my internship. I assist [my supervisor] Amanda with planning and executing Aggression Replacement Training (ART), which many social workers across the state attend. I sit on many committees within the County, such as the Coordinating Services Team committees and subcommittees. I am planning and executing a Peer Support Specialist informational meeting, which we are hoping to inform and recruit Peer Support Specialists from a variety of Mental Health and AODA clients in Rock County. This is an informational meeting that is open to the entire population, and it will be held at the end of March.

I research and help implement new, innovative ideas for both the Mental Health and Juvenile Justice divisions. Much of my research is being used currently within the system. I assisted in developing a new diversion program that is being implemented for both children and parents that face difficulties within their relationship whether it’s abuse, neglect, etc.

I assist with various tasks such as budget proposals and grant writing, among other various responsibilities. I assist the County with coordinating outside resources from the community to come in and speak with our Human Services Department Staff of over 150 employees about various issues, such as trauma-informed care, motivational interviewing, how to implement evidence-based practice in their every day work, etc. I am currently in the process of putting together a resource manual that highlights the Juvenile Justice division and its various evidence-based programs. When completed, this manual will be presented to not only the entire Juvenile Justice division, but the Rock County Human Services Department board.

I also assist in the different programs that the Juvenile Justice division offers, such as Weekend Report and the Youth Services Center. At Weekend Report and the Youth Services Center, I assist the juvenile with whatever they may need, whether that is teaching them skills to better themselves in the community, moral reasoning, or just to lend them a helping hand. I also attend various conferences and trainings to improve my skills as a social worker. These conferences include the YES! Summit, which focused on trauma-informed care, and the Aggression Replacement Training (ART). I also sit in on the Rock County truancy meeting, where we meet with juveniles that are facing truancy issues from not attending school and develop ways to assist them. The goal of our truancy committee is to not only figure out the reason this student does not regularly attend school, but how we can provide the means for them to get to school.

All in all, I help out in the Rock County Human Services Department in any way that I can.

What have you learned during your internship experience? How does this opportunity relate to your career goals?

I have had many enriching experiences in my internship that will be useful when I am in the Social Work field. I have gained knowledge, skills and values that I truly believe I would not have gained without this internship. I have learned how to effectively work with individuals, groups, communities and other organizations. I have learned what it is like to work in a professional environment, and how important communication and other various skills are in being successful in the field. I have gained skills in management and administration that will be of assistance in my future endeavors in the social work field.

The administrative opportunity that I have been given in social work is directly related to my future career path. I will be attending graduate school, majoring in Social Work, with an emphasis in Leadership, in hopes to be an administrative social worker. I hope to be a director of a non-profit organization one day, so having this experience in an administrative setting will be beneficial in many ways.

What advice would you give other students about internships?

Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone. Sometimes internships can be intimidating, because for most people, an internship is the first time that a student will get experience in their field of study. To many, including myself, this is intimidating because it can lead to many unknowns.

Ask your internship supervisor questions. Many times supervisors will throw you right in the deep end, just to see if you can float. At first, this can be threatening, but it will test your knowledge and skills that you have gained in preparation for an internship, whether it be through classes, organizations, etc. Supervisors enjoy when their interns ask questions, so do not be afraid to do so. Furthermore, supervisors do not expect their interns to know how to perfectly perform every task and duty that is given to them at first, so they anticipate you to ask for their guidance.

Finally, most of the time supervisors request interns, so they are happy that you are there to work with them and be of assistance to them! Make sure that you are making the best of the enriching experience that you are gaining through your internship, as it will be of much assistance for future endeavors in your career path.

What did Suzanne’s supervisor have to say?

During her first days with the County, Suzanne was a tremendous asset in helping me to plan our ART (Aggression Replacement Training). Suzanne jumped right in and was able to assist with anything I asked of her, from making coffee in the morning to helping and assisting the facilitator of the training when I needed to leave the room.

Suzanne is currently working on putting together a resource binder for the division. The resource binder will highlight all of the evidence-based programs and curricula used within the division. The finished product will be distributed to staff within the organization and to the Rock County Human Services Department Board members. The manual will be a living document of the services provided to youth and families, and will be continually updated over time. Suzanne will be recognized for developing this manual.

Suzanne has been one of the best interns we have had in Juvenile Justice.

Congratulations Suzanne on being selected as UW-Whitewater Intern of the Month for April 2013!

Are you having or have you had an outstanding internship experience like Suzanne? Tell employers, faculty, and, of course, fellow UW-Whitewater students what makes/made your internship experience so great! Be featured in the Intern Spotlight! To learn more, visit the UWW Intern of the Month Program page.

Be sure to check out past featured students’ stories as well!