Undergraduate Blog / Career Development

What People Don’t Tell you Before Starting Your Internship

Going into this summer I expected to be working for a Commission under the Connecticut government. Less than a week before my start date I received an email saying the governor had cut the Commission out of the state budget and my internship was now not available along with all the other people displaced from this vote. I was upset and you could say definitely a bit freaked out. The supervisor I had through the Commission thankfully set me up with a small non-profit out of Hartford doing the same work with marketing and women’s leadership that I had originally planned on. I was still able to start on my expected start date and was more than grateful for the opportunity to start this new and unexpected journey.

As I am now very far along in the summer and my internship end date is coming close at the end of this month, I wanted to take this time to reflect on what I’ve done and what I’ve learned and tell you the secrets that no one tells you before starting a summer internship – especially an unpaid one.

  1. What you planned/hoped/told all your friends you’d be doing is not always what you will actually do when you start your internship. Things are always changing, especially in a non-profit culture, and it’s important that you’re ready for your tasks and job description to change as well. As initially this may be frustrating for some, I’ve found that with an open mind that these new and unexpected tasks have helped me learn more than I ever expected to this summer.
  2. In an unpaid internship it’s hard to stay motivated. At the beginning of the summer I expected this internship to be just as rewarding as having a real job in a field that I finally feel comfortable in. Although much of what I’ve done has been rewarding, there are days where I struggle to find the motivation behind the work I’m doing. I sometimes ask, “How will this help me? What’s the point of doing this task if I don’t see myself ever doing it again in the future?” I went through a difficult week of continuously struggling with questions like this, but soon you realize that it all matters. You may not do some of these tasks again in your future, but if nothing else these are the moments that help you find what can intrinsically motivate you. Unfortunately not every moment of a job will be the most fun you’ve ever had.
  3. Your supervisors trust you way more than you really thought they would. Going into an internship you’ll probably expect that your supervisors will be giving you a ton of direction and checking all that you do – the truth is that you’re there to help them and they trust you the same they would another employee. I was shocked to find myself sitting at a desk all day coming up with my own ideas and my own projects and only seeing my supervisor at lunch. With this, you start to learn a lot about yourself, how you work, when you need a snack (very important), and how to use the resources given to you. This aspect of an internship, although seems small, is by far the most important and the true reason why you want to gain this type of experience.

All in all the internship experience is entirely what you make of it – it can be something to just build your resume or you can take a moment to reflect on what you’ve learned about the field you’re working in, the business or organization you’re working for, and about yourself.