Time Management for Interns

Clock Work

It is getting to be that time of the year for college students. Classes are spiraling to their ends, bringing with them looming deadlines on papers and projects. Final exams are just around the corner. I think we all know that after Thanksgiving break, it’s a quick downhill slide into the end of the semester.

If you are interning on top of your course load, you have another set of responsibilities to juggle. Fall internships will be coming to an end, which means wrapping up projects and possibly preparing transition materials for the next intern.

This is when good time management skills become very important. As an intern, here are some ways to manage your time, especially at this busy time of the year.

  • Get Organized. Make a to-do list at the end of each day for the following day. It can be particularly helpful to rank order your list by importance. If you have some similar items on your list, group those together. For example, if you have several emails you need to get out, group those as one whole to-do since they all involve being at a computer. Something else on your list involve using the computer? List it right after the email to-dos.
  • Hunker Down. Speaking as an experienced procrastinator, now is not the time to procrastinate. Use a planner or online calendar to schedule out (almost) every minute of your day. Schedule your study times and locations. Consider studying at the library to minimize the distractions that might throw you off course at home. Stick with your plan.
  • Make the Most of Every Minute. Let’s face it – We all have chunks of downtime in our day, no matter how busy our day is. You have time while waiting for the professor to show up to class. You have time while standing in line for food. With the technology that so many students now have right at their fingertips, you can take advantage of these little moments of time. Use your smartphone, iPad, or laptop to send a quick email, do some research, or contribute to a discussion on D2L.

What strategies do you use in managing your time as a student AND intern?

Photo by Sam.Weiss.

Being an Intern Change Agent

ideas

One of the exciting things about an internship is the possibility of one of your ideas being implemented by the organization you’re working for. This is a great accomplishment for an intern – You leave your mark on the organization and have an outstanding achievement to highlight on your resume. Employers gain, too. For them, one of the benefits of having an intern is the potential infusion of new ideas. It can be a win-win situation.

However, nobody likes a hotshot intern, someone who comes in and immediately starts cramming all of their ideas down people’s throats. As an intern, it’s important to introduce new ideas in a respectful, even delicate manner. Here are my thoughts on how to approach this process.

Look, Listen, and Learn

When you are a new intern, take the time to observe your workplace environment. Are things being done in creative or innovative ways? When you hear conversations between employees, do people seem open to different perspectives? Make attending staff meetings a part of your internship. Pay attention to the discussions and take note of things like direction of, contributions to, and tone of the conversation. Does this feel like a place that welcomes new ideas?

Ask Questions

If you observe something that think could be done in a different way, start by just asking questions. Sometimes, there are reasons why things are being done the way they are. And unless you ask, you won’t know. It’s also possible that your idea isn’t that new – maybe they already tried making that change and it didn’t work. These kinds of points are great for the meetings you have with your supervisor. You’ll learn more about the organization, and there will now be more context to your ideas.

Use Relationships

The best way to integrate your ideas into an organization is through trusting work relationships. The best place to start building a good working relationship is with your supervisor. He or she can provide you with valuable insight about the organization. You know that he/she is supportive of your learning during the internship experience. Your meetings with him/her should be your opportunity to discuss your observations and ideas.

In addition to these points, make sure that you are being a good intern. Do the best work you can. Have a positive attitude. Be self-motivated. If you are doing a great job with the work you were brought on to do, then people will be more receptive to your ideas. And finally, I would suggest approaching discussions of new ideas from a brainstorming perspective. Take time to “think out loud” with your supervisor or open-minded co-workers.

Questions…

Did you successfully suggest a change or a new idea at and internship?
How did you approach the situation?

Photo by Sean MacEntee

Score a Goal with Your Fall Internship

goal

As the fall semester and the month of September begin, so do many students begin fall internships. For those of you interning this fall, have you developed your goals for your internship yet? If not, it’s definitely time to get on that!

Setting goals is incredibly important when participating in an internship. Intentional learning goals are what set an internship experience apart from a just a regular ol’ job. It’s the whole point of having an internship – to learn, to grow as a future professional, and to have experiences that you can showcase to future employers.

Experience Goals

As you go into an internship, there are likely certain experiences that you hope to have during the course of your time there. Maybe you want to experience client interactions as a sales intern. Maybe you want to experience real fieldwork as a biology intern. There are key things to do, see, and engage in as an intern in your particular field. Incorporate a couple of these field-specific experiences into your internship goals.

Skills Goals

Internships provide the opportunity to develop important workplace skills, so at least one skills-based goal would be great to include. If you want to improve your communications skills, develop a goal that gets at this very specifically. For example, you might want to improve your writing skills as a PR intern, and you will work on it by writing press releases. You might seek to develop stronger group facilitation skills as a human services intern, and you will do so by working with a client group at your internship site. When it comes time to discuss your skills on a resume or in a future interview, you should have specific examples from your internship to give as proof that you actually possess those skills.

Project Goals

So what is the difference between experience goals and project goals? For me, it’s a difference between general work tasks or being part of a project and having a project all your own that you complete start to finish. For example, I have seen special events interns who are charged with coordinating a specific event. Basically, it’s their event, their project. Now, it’s not that you don’t have help with a bigger project. You should receive guidance from your supervisor or other connected co-workers. However, it’s your responsibility and something that you can call your own. Not all internships allow for projects, but if you have the opportunity for it, work with your supervisor to identify a project you can focus on throughout your internship.

Don’t forget that as you set your internship goals, you should determine the specific steps you will take to achieve them. Also, determine how you will will measure that achievement – How will you know if you’ve completed each goal? Finally, remember that you are not alone in setting goals for your internship. Have a conversation with your supervisor about the goals you have and work with him or her to decide 1) if those goals are attainable within the scope of the internship and, if they are, 2) what you can begin working on to move you towards those goals.

What is one of your goals for your fall internship?

If you aren’t in an internship this semester, what is one thing you hope to achieve in a future internship?

Photo by olle svensson

What Working for Disney Could Teach You…

Airplane

Photo by xlibber

As you read this blog post, I will be en route to visit UW-Whitewater students participating in the Disney College Program at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando. I am excited for this opportunity to see the work our students are doing there and to discuss their experiences in the midst of their program.

I have to admit that before I started my job as Internship Coordinator, I didn’t know much about the Disney College Program. I have since, clearly, learned a lot both from the Disney College Program staff and from UW-Whitewater program alumni.

In the process, I have become aware of common concerns people have with the program. In case you don’t know, DCPers (as I like to call them) can work in food service, custodial, and housekeeping, among many other front-line park and resort roles. I can definitely understand people’s concerns – how is an “internship” bussing tables beneficial?

I will tell you how this program is beneficial to a student’s career development. It’s all about transferable skills!

  • Communication Skills: According the the National Association of Colleges & Employers (NACE), verbal communication skills top the list of what employers are seeking in new college graduates. However, communications skills are often found to be lacking in job candidates. Not a good combination. Many of the roles in the Disney College Program involve a lot of guest interaction. DCPers have ample opportunity to develop strong communication skills when they…
    • Greet guests arriving at a resort
    • Respond to guest’s questions and provide information
    • Handle guest complaints or concerns
  • Interpersonal Skills: Obviously there is some overlap here with the communication skills, but interpersonal skills go deeper into the ability to develop rapport with people. One important thing that I’ve learned about working in Disney’s parks and resorts: “cast members” are part of a show. As such, connecting with guests and making sure that they are having a magical experience is key. DCPers develop interpersonal skills when they…
    • Interact with guests from around the world
    • Assist guests in planning their visits
    • Approach guests and engage them in conversation
  • Work Ethic: Certain skills are important to ensure effectiveness, efficiency, and overall job satisfaction. Basic skills in decision making, cooperation, time management, attention to detail, and meeting goals are all necessary in the workplace. At Disney, students develop these skills when they…
    • Operate sophisticated ride systems in an Attractions role
    • Ensure Character Performer safety as a Character Attendant
    • Manage a seating chart working in Food and Beverage

Development of these transferable skills, to only name a few, is going to help DCPers qualify for more advanced opportunities including Disney Professional Internships and other non-Disney internships.

For those of you not in the Disney College Program, think about similar experiences you have already had. Have you worked in food service or retail? The same transferable skills likely apply.

So remember, the important element of any work experience is what you do/did. Your job title is not everything. Make sure your skills shine through.

See you after Spring Break!

The Delicate Balance of Job Hunting During an Internship

Photo by SuperFantastic

As I sat down to write my weekly post, I was drawing a blank. What to write about? What went on this week and how can it inspire an internship-related post? Nothing. Unfortunately, this has happened before.

So I reached out to the twitterverse for topic ideas. Recent UWW alum Karri Duerwachter suggested writing about looking for a “real” job while still in an internship. This idea triggered my memory of a conversation I had this week with a student considering both internships and full-time jobs for after graduation. Perfect!

On with the blog post…

So, you are interning during your final semester in college or the summer following graduation. Eventually, the internship will end and, while in some cases it could turn into a full time gig, there’s no guarantee that you will get a job offer with that organization when all is said and done.

How do you appropriately job search while completing your internship? Here are my thoughts:

  • Do it on your own time. Job “shopping” at work isn’t uncommon for people already employed. However, there are some dos and don’ts to consider. My best advice for browsing jobs while at your internship: Don’t do it. Will it be tempting? Yes. Is it dangerous? Could be. You are at your internship to work, and you are not being productive if you’re spending your time browsing Hawk Jobs. If you hope for a strong recommendation from your internship supervisor, I would cut the online distraction time to a minimum. Do it when you get home.
  • Update your resume. Your internship experience should help you land a post-grad job, whether directly with the company you’re working for or with another organization that appreciates the experience you have gained. Make sure that you have added your internship to your resume and keep it updated as new projects or responsibilities come your way.
  • Talk openly and honestly with your supervisor. Because it is an internship and because you are completing school, your supervisor should be understanding of the fact that you’ll be job hunting. It would be irresponsible for you NOT to be searching and applying for jobs. Have a professionally honest conversation about your search. Consult with him/her about your resume or ask for advice on field-specific strategies. Remember – your supervisor is now part of your network, and networking is key in the job search.

One final point on job searching as you complete your internship: Don’t just drop your internship if an opportunity comes along. You have made a commitment to the internship and it’s important to honor that. Not only would ditching your internship leave a poor impression with your co-workers and supervisor there, the organization offering the permanent opportunity might question your loyalty. Would you do the same to them if another job opportunity came along? Even as an intern, professionalism is everything.

Question of the Week
What issues would you like to see covered on the UWW Internships Blog?