Things I should do before an internship
May 19, 2014 3:04 AM   Subscribe

I will have an internship this summer at a political firm in DC that makes software for one of the two political parties. I will be a creative intern prototyping and designing interfaces for the campaign tools they create. If you were me, what sort of things would you do to get the most out of your internship?

This will be my third time on this ride, with the first two as a coder. I'm no stranger to the process, but I'm interested in optimizing this internship because it's the last before I graduate into the job market.

I start in mid-June and have about a month to get things done before then. What sort of things do you think I should do before and during to make this summer great? If you've had internships before, is there anything you wish you did differently?

I've previously asked this question about optimizing my resume.
posted by lalunamel to Work & Money (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Are you headed towards a career in this organization or field? Or the ones that work with it? Polish your skills of selling yourself:
- Get some name cards for possible future contacts. I wouldn't put "intern, x software" but rather "student, y university" or something else appropriate. If you select the information carefully you can use these for personal networking as well. Shell out the $20 to do this professionally instead of printing at home or going with a free service that puts their name on the back.
- Upgrade the wardrobe to be appropriate to your job and occasionally a notch above the minimum
- Upgrade your web presence: Put your resume online in the proper places, if you use LinkedIn, review it's up-to-dateness and professionalness.

Other than that, if you are moving, reassure yourself that you know how to get to work, who your roommates are, what your cost of living is. Start poking around for places to meet people or join the relevant facebook etc groups so you can meet people. Your cohort and colleagues may turn out to be very important socially, but it's nice to have an external outlet.

This isn't my field, but I've been an intern and I hire interns for myself and have to get them acclimated to a new company and new country.
posted by whatzit at 4:15 AM on May 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: What are your career goals? Do you envision yourself working for political organizations, or do you want to use this experience as resume filler? The answer to those questions should guide you.

Assuming you're looking to do this as a career: use your internship to meet as many people as possible. Don't have lunch alone. Network, ask people out to lunch, coffee, etc., and ask them about their job, the industry, career progression within the industry, etc.

On the other hand, if you're looking at this internship as resume filler for future employment in a different industry: take on as many assignments as you can, seek out experts who do what you want to do, build a portfolio that demonstrates your experience, perfect an elevator pitch that you can use for future job searches.
posted by dfriedman at 6:19 AM on May 19, 2014

Response by poster: To be clear, I'm planning to become either a software developer or designer, or some combination of the two. I do have a website and a resume, but no business cards.
posted by lalunamel at 6:46 AM on May 19, 2014

"Software developer or designer" are two rather different fields, though there is a lot of value in designers who are able to communicate with developers, and vice versa. I'd focus on figuring out how to communicate that value--being able to navigate the developers' and designers' worlds and forge communication between the two. That will yield significant value if you can do it well.
posted by dfriedman at 6:57 AM on May 19, 2014

Best answer: Business cards aren't a bad idea - I would just put your name and website, maybe your email address. I'd look for Meetups that meet your interests professionally. Get coffee with your colleagues, including other interns - an intern I met at an internship told me about a paid internship which was my next gig. Ask people about themselves, people love to talk about themselves. And listen. Maybe this isn't you at all but definitely be prepared to listen more than you talk as an intern. My husband just had an intern who felt the need to interject constantly, even on things that he didn't know about, and it drove people in the office nuts.

I agree that I'm curious as to your interest in both being a developer and a designer. I see that you're getting a minor in studio art so that makes more sense but it's rare/hard to find someone who does both jobs well. Are you interested in sticking with political work? Is the party you will be working for the one that you usually affiliate yourself with? Assuming that you're graduating in 2015, if you're interested in doing political work, that may be a great time to get involved with the presidential campaigns. If that interests you, you can definitely start laying the groundwork for that by making connections this summer.
posted by kat518 at 7:25 AM on May 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: #1 piece of advice: make sure you get along well with everybody. That counts when, inevitably down the road, you need to network and need people to think of you when they hear about openings for jobs you might want at certain places.
posted by discopolo at 7:38 AM on May 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Write this entry for your resume now, as a way to set goals and define what you want to get out of the internship. You obviously shouldn't insert it in your posted resume just yet.
posted by jshort at 9:55 AM on May 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Wow, great advice on this thread - I think a lot of this applies also to first careers, or people looking to switch careers - so thank you for asking the question!

If you run out of things to do, volunteer, politely, your availability. Go outside your comfort zone. You'll be amazed how often some project you worked on, that had nothing to do with your core knowledge or skills, becomes valuable again down the road - even a decade down the road - when you start a new career or degree program.

Be kind to everyone. Including other interns or people who appear to have no clout.

Ask advice during lulls in the action. Really, truly listen to the people who are offering you suggestions - even if they run counter to what you think. You might find out they're right, in the long run, or you might have an opportunity to apply their wisdom somewhere you didn't expect.
posted by mitschlag at 4:51 PM on May 19, 2014

I agree with Discopolo, set out to sharpen your social game in the work environment. These are skills that will help you get hired, will help you keep jobs, win friends and influence people. Know the company, check out the website, ask about the corporate climate there, network with people there and others otherwise associated. Keep your eyes open for a mentor, or someone you can go back to after you leave the internship, and once you get your first professional position.
posted by Jewel98 at 5:54 PM on May 19, 2014

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