Megan Schuman is a student a DePauw University. This blog entry was originally posted at Inside INdiana Business:
This summer was the ultimate internship experience. Not only was I an intern, but I was an intern for Indiana INTERNnet – the free internship matching program linking employers, students, high schools, colleges and universities.
I learned about internships while doing my own internship. I conducted research, wrote blogs and attended conferences about why students should have internships, why employers should hire interns, how internships are the perfect recruiting tool and how internships retain Indiana’s talent.
Not only did I hear about the benefits of an internship, but I experienced them too. I actively thought about my internship as a test-run for my actual career: What size company would I want to work for? What are the local opportunities unique to Indianapolis? How can I grow my own professional network?
Now, I’m the biggest advocate for experiential learning. And why not? Internships are the best possible experience for college students. There are a whole host of advantages such as college credit, fulfillment of degree requirements, application of academic coursework to the professional world, exploration and verification of career interests, and discovery of ideal job aspects.
Internships don’t just benefit students either. For the employer, hosting an intern can allow you to provide a student with a rich learning experience, gain short-term talent, increase diversity within your organization and encourage students to stay local in their community.
I learned other things I didn’t even think about when considering a summer internship. Here are the top five things I learned as a result of my own unique internship experience:
- Networking: I can’t stress this enough. I e-mailed Indianapolis-area folks I wanted to meet, and I wasn’t shy. I listened and conversed about their pasts, my future and took some copious notes. This is, without a doubt, my No. 1 take-away from this internship.
- Corporate culture: As one of the few interns in the office, I wasn’t treated like just “the intern.” I was respected as a fellow employee, and I responded with the same attitude. I appreciated being treated like a valued employee, and I didn’t want to let my fellow employees down.
- Numbers (and other seemingly minuscule details) matter: As a nonprofit, Indiana INTERNnet relies on grant funding. Grants depend on numbers, metrics and accurate reports to help measure impact. For me, metrics were a challenge. I’ll never again forget to quadruple check. This is where I learned to slow down – consider the details, review and then proceed.
- You’ll never know if you don’t ask: My main project this summer was our new intern engagement initiative, “Indy Interns.” With little funding and a group of excited interns, grant writing and simply asking for donations was imperative. And 99% of the time it worked! You truly never know what will happen if you don’t at least try.
- Think: This sounds simple, but I was shocked to learn one of my ideas developed into one of the major aspects of our fall grant proposal. Just because you’re an intern doesn’t mean you can’t have valuable ideas to contribute to the discussion. Don’t be afraid to speak up.
Never once did I fetch coffee or pick up dry cleaning. On the other hand, I did write my own grant proposal and letter of intent, coordinate a series of summer intern events and contribute weekly blogs to our site, www.IndianaINTERN.net. If you had asked me two months ago what exactly it was I’d be doing this summer, I would have blubbered about writing or assisting with miscellaneous projects. But I’ve had several projects that I call my own. I was given responsibility and independence, and in return, my supervisors expected dedication and quality work.
Suddenly, the summer is nearly over, and I have a beefed-up portfolio, a whole host of new contacts from the community and an experience I would never replace. Even better, I’ve gone from a confused college sophomore to a prepared, experienced and connected college junior.
Indiana INTERNnet, the free online internship matching program of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, offers assistance for companies looking to start or enhance an internship program. The Indiana Employer’s Guide to Internships and a monthly electronic newsletter are available through the Indiana INTERNnet web site, www.IndianaINTERN.net, or by calling (317) 264-6852.