According to the National Society for Experiential Education, an internship is “a carefully monitored work or volunteer experience in which an individual has intentional learning goals and reflects actively on what he or she is learning throughout the experience.” Let’s break this down a bit:
“Carefully monitored” – you should be supervised, ideal by someone knowledgeable about not only the work you will be doing, but also about the larger career field.
“Intentional learning goals” – you should have learning objectives identified prior to the internship experience. These objectives are best written down in the form of a learning agreement between you and your employer; they provide you with direction during the internship. While the objectives will need to meet the employer’s needs and expectations, they are your objectives. Find ways to incorporate your career goals into the internship. For example, if you know that you need to develop public speaking skills, include public speaking as one of your objectives on your learning agreement.
“Individual…reflects actively…” – throughout the course of the internship, you should take time to ensure that your internship activities are helping you to reach you learning objectives and make adjustments as needed.
How is an internship different from a part-time or summer job?
While you can certainly learn a lot from any job, learning is intentional while interning.
In the next Internship Basics post, we’ll answer the question, Can I Get Course Credit for my Internship?