Internships provide ambitious college students with opportunities to gain valuable work experience and network with accomplished professionals. An internship – whether during the school year or over the summer – can give you a better understanding of the career paths within your discipline, introduce you to major players in your field, or even help you land your dream job.
In this article, Dr. Allanté Whitmore, an alum of North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and Carnegie Mellon University, shares tips that will help you make the most of any internship.
Most internships last about 10-12 weeks. Taking a week or two to prepare beforehand can make a big difference in your internship experience and the quality of your work. You can make a big impression by reaching out to your higher-ups to ask about skills you need, books you should read, or other resources you should look over ahead of your start date.
Co-create goals or deliverables for the internship.
Whether before your internship or once you’ve settled into your role, take some time to think about what you want to accomplish. Your company, agency, or nonprofit may have already decided on the deliverables (the things you must complete) they desire from you, but some companies let interns have a say in their work. Either way, thinking about the professional skills you want to build will help you be strategic about how you spend your time at your internship. Use these questions to help you figure out which assignments will benefit you most:
- What skills or experience will help you in the next semester and beyond?
- Which projects can showcase your current skills and knowledge?
- What do you want to add to your resume beyond the company and position you held?
- Does this position offer an opportunity to explore some facet of your field?
Build your network.
This one may seem obvious, but it bears repeating. Internships are an incredible opportunity to connect with established professionals in your field. Take advantage of having that professional (and life) experience within easy reach. Connect with different folks at your internship to get a better understanding of different career paths, roles, and opportunities in your field. Send emails to set up one-on-ones with individuals in your organization that you’d like to meet. (A quick Google search will return plenty of email templates for this purpose.) Be sure to follow up with a thank you email. If you want to stay connected, send them a LinkedIn request.
Save some of your money.
In many cases your internship won’t pay much more than your campus job. It will be tempting to spend all your money enjoying outings, shopping, and trips. If possible, live as close as you can to your typical budget and save the rest. At a minimum, work towards building your emergency savings fund. (This fund should contain anywhere from $500 to $1,000.) Your future self will thank you when you need that cash at a later date.
Evaluate and optimize.
At the end of your internship, take some time to reflect. Think through all the things you liked (or did not like) about the internship. Think about the organizational culture, the tasks you completed, and everything in between. Taking time to reflect will help you begin to figure out the type of work you like to do as well as the structure that fits your working style. Your reflections will help you ask recruiters about the things that are important to you so you can make informed decisions about your next role – be it another internship or your first post-grad position.
Information on The Home Depot’s Internship Program
We hope these tips help you with your next internship and throughout your career. And if you’re looking for a summer opportunity, apply to The Home Depot’s summer internship program. The program accepts applications for Summer 2023 internships from September 1 – October 31, 2022. These paid internships run from May 15 to July 28, 2023. An internship at The Home Depot will allow you to network, learn new skills, and explore career options in a supportive environment. Click here to learn more. Good luck!