June 21, 2017
This is a summary of our April webinar. For even more career advice, register for 22 June webinar, “Finding your Fit: Making Sense of your Career Options,” or watch the recording once it becomes available.
Valerie Sloan and Rebecca Haaker from NCAR|UCAR are very familiar working with interns. In their “Making the most of Summer Opportunities” webinar they share advice that they provide to the interns at NCAR. They highlight what employers look for in new hires and provide ways that you can hone these skills during your summer internship or job experience. One of the most important aspects of working at either a company or a research lab is to adequately prepare for the experience – this could mean preparing to move somewhere new and/or preparing to work for the organization. This would include researching the company or research lab through their website, news articles, or their social media.
In developing professionalism, it is imperative to establish expectations. They highlight the phrase “how you do anything is how you do everything,” meaning that everything you do, no matter how passive, matters. Personal presence is important in starting a new position, and this applies to all aspects of work. Dress appropriately, be courteous in your emails, keep an organized workflow, complete projects on time, and ask what more you can do to help people around the office or lab. These aspects will also help when networking within the job. Valerie and Rebecca offer useful networking advice, from expanding opportunities to network for those who enjoy networking, to aiming to talk to one or two people and engaging in a meaningful conversation if networking doesn’t come as easily. This webinar also answered questions from the audience, such as:
If you are working for an organizations as the sole intern among mid-career or established professionals, how do you network with people 10-15 years older than you?
They suggest asking your supervisor to introduce you to people, ask to help with people’s projects outside your immediate working group, and asking if there are students in other programs (or if you are on a campus, in other labs) that they can connect you with.
What are useful questions to ask a mentor at the start of your position?
Valerie and Rebecca advise students to take the opportunity to define your hours, the rules of the workplace, your goals for your position, and ask any lingering questions about your responsibilities. With these expectations established, both you and your supervisor have clear guidelines from which to assess your progress. You could ask for introductions to other people, if there are seminars or other meetings you can attend, and who to talk to when the mentor is absent.
How do I turn an internship into a paid job?
They suggest that prior to asking this question, you should wait until you are around 2/3 of the way through the internship so that your supervisor knows you well enough as an employee and as a person. Start by asking if they employ past interns at all, as some companies have budgets set aside for internships and official positions are accounted for separately. If they do hire interns, emphasize your enjoyment working with the company and say that you’re looking for further opportunities to continue working for them. You could also ask for advice for graduate school programs if the company requires an advanced degree.
Cecilia Hurtado is a summer intern at the American Geophysical Union. She recently graduated from the Department of Geology at the College of William and Mary.