What I Learned from my Internship Experience
You’ve found a listing, completed an application, sent a portfolio, interviewed, and, joy of joys, you’ve been accepted. Congratulations! You’ve got your first internship! Whilst this is certainly cause for celebration, the work’s really just begun.
As a past-intern myself, my biggest takeaway from internship experiences is that they are what you make of them. I’ve just completed my first internship (with Roots!) and there is so much I learned and gained from the experience. However, there are aspects I could have taken advantage of more too.
An internship is a fantastic opportunity for professional development, personal growth, and to substantiate skills and knowledge with experience. There are countless possible lessons learned from an internship, but it’s up to you to ensure you’re making the most of the experience.
To help with that, this post will run through the key takeaways from an internship. To put things in context, I’ll be discussing what I learned from my internship experience as an SEO content writer with Roots Interns. In discussing this, I may also cover why interning with nonprofits can be so beneficial and why you should consider joining with Roots.
8 Key Takeaways from an Internship with Roots Interns
Internships come in all shapes and sizes, so you’ll likely hear a few different answers to the question ‘what did I learn from my internship?’. However, there are plenty of takeaways from an internship that are universal to any intern. Here are some of the most common:
1. Take time researching and selecting your internship.
Our first learnings from internship experience actually has to do with the selection process— so if you’ve already found your placement… maybe it’s not too late to reconsider.
With so many opportunities out there and so many different kinds of programs to choose from, it’s really worth considering all available options to find the internship that best fits you and your needs.
My advice here, don’t overlook internships with nonprofits. As they are often unpaid, people often question are internships with nonprofits worth it? The answer is yes. There are loads of good reasons to intern for a nonprofit, especially abroad.
A big one is that working with grassroots organizations, you’ll have the opportunity to take on challenging tasks you wouldn’t be able to in more corporate settings. What’s more, you’ll be gaining your valuable work experience whilst helping to make the world a better place.
2. First day jitters are to be expected
You will inevitably feel a little nervous about starting your internship. If you don’t, it probably means you’re not doing it right.
Internships are the ideal way for an intern to gain experience in a new career field. So, by definition, they are made for beginners. The ideal intern will step outside of their comfort zone, take on new skills, and rise to a challenge. Pushing yourself to new heights will naturally be nerve-wracking.
Our best advice, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Interns often worry this will make them seem inexperienced or unknowledgeable, but host organizations are looking for someone who is willing to learn, not someone who already knows the job. Make the most of the support offered to you.
There’s another factor for nonprofit interns too. One of the main answers to the question, why are internships with nonprofits beneficial? Is because they offer the opportunity to travel. Of course traveling to exotic destinations is a huge bonus, but it can add to first day nerves. With Roots though, you’ll have our full support, leaving you to make the most of your time.
3. Take initiative
This advice applies on two levels: personally and professionally.
Taking initiative personally means setting your own goals for your internship and pursuing them independently. A key lesson learned during internship experiences is that your personal development is your own responsibility. Make sure you know what you’re looking to gain from the internship, then make it happen.
For my internship with Roots, I wanted to build a deep and wide portfolio of content, so I sought as many varied assignments as possible. My proactivity was rewarded, and I was granted the chance to write for not just Roots, but a number of their sister organizations too.
Taking initiative professionally means bringing your own ideas to the table and taking ownership of your work. Look for a way to go the extra mile and bring value to your host organization. Try proposing a project or taking on a challenging task. Even if you get shot down, that extra effort will get noticed.
Another internship takeaway you’ll gain this way is that learning from mistakes increases confidence. Don’t be afraid to get things wrong.
This advice is particularly pertinent to nonprofit internships, where host organizations are especially responsive to interns bringing their own plans and project ideas. At Roots, we’ve had interns raise enough funds to construct buildings, introduce new technologies and softwares to organizations, and make incredible impacts for worthwhile causes, all by simply showing initiative.
4. Practice good communication
More than 61% of professionals say soft skills in the workplace are just as important as hard skills. Most crucial among these are communication skills.
One of the main takeaways from internship experiences should be that the importance of clear, effective communication in the workplace cannot be understated. This is true for internships and any work environment.
Use your internship to practice good workplace communication. Keep on top of emails, regularly check-in with supervisors, and make the most of opportunities to present ideas and findings.
It may seem odd to practice communication, but these are skills you will rely on for the rest of your career, regardless of career path. Make sure one of your internship takeaways is improved communication skills.
5. Keep track of achievements
By simply completing an internship, any internship, you’re giving your CV a substantial boost and statistically increasing your chances of receiving a job offer. However, by keeping track of your accomplishments during your internship, you can really make your CV stand out.
So, keep note of the tasks you take on and their outcomes. Whenever possible, look for numerical data to add to your CV. If you can quote the funds raised from an event you organized, or the reach and conversion rate of a marketing campaign you headed, you can show proof of the lessons learned from internship experiences.
A bonus career benefit of interning with a nonprofit is that attributes, such as a philanthropic mindset and a belief in your ability to make a difference in the world, will really make your CV glow. So, keep note of the organization you work with and the significance of the work they do too.
6. Manage workloads
Discuss expectations with your supervisor, set achievable goals, and don’t overextend yourself.
Especially vital for part-time or remote interns, one of the key takeaways from internship experience is the importance of managing schedules, deadlines, and workloads.
This is one of the internship lessons learned the hard way for me. Beginning my internship working part-time remotely, I struggled saying no to assignments. I found myself taking on more than I had time for and eventually a backlog formed. In the end, exciting projects and opportunities passed me by as I was still catching up on old assignments.
What did I learn from my internship? Yes, it’s great to push yourself and aim high, but don’t bite off more than you can chew. The fact of the matter is that excessive multi-tasking will sacrifice the quality of your work. The same applies to those completing their internship full-time and in-person.
7. Keep a positive attitude and an open mind
Things won’t always go your way. A lesson learned in internship experiences and life experiences. You may propose a project idea that gets rejected. You may have to rewrite an assignment several times before getting it right. Keep in mind that every experience is a learning opportunity.
A positive attitude will not only impress your supervisor, it will help you to, in spite of minor setbacks, remain open to the new opportunities and experiences your internship offers you.
8. Network and keep hold of contacts
The biggest takeaway from internship experiences will always be the people you meet. The connections you make during your internship could be the foundations of your professional network later in your career.
The best way to go about building professional relationships is to be proactive.
Connect with everyone’s socials, even reach out to other departments. If you’re interning in the office, try getting coffee for the team. If you’re working remotely try a virtual coffee break. Give yourself every opportunity to build relationships beyond the day-to-day work.
Primarily, this will give you a long list of people to ask for references. More than that though, someone you meet during your internship could be a future business partner, employer, or employee. You never know where a new connection will take you.
Are Internships at Nonprofits Worth it?
The truth is, with any internship you’ll get out what you put in. So, it’s up to you to make the experience worthwhile. As to the question, are internships with nonprofits worth it? What I learned from my internship experience was that working with nonprofits, you will get all the key takeaways from an internship, and so much more.
Your work will directly assist incredible organizations doing vital work. With Roots, you can find internships supporting female empowerment, community development, eco-conservation and so many other meaningful causes. Nowhere else will the impact you make during your internship be felt as strongly as with a nonprofit.
So, are internships with nonprofits beneficial? Hugely. To the intern, host organization, and the community they operate within. On top of this, you get the chance to travel, experience foreign cultures, and learn new ways of life. It’s win-win-win.
This blog was written by Tom Rusbridge. Photos taken by Anna Lusty.