Using Your Summer Internship As A Career Guidance Tool

Using your summer internship as a career guidance tool

You're starting—or just started—your internship for the summer. You're stoked to learn and prove what you can do, squashing nerves over the unknown. Whether it's just for the summer or your entry to a full-time job, you want to get as much out of it as possible. 

Because your internship is more than an item on your resume. When done right, it can give you a clearer idea of who you are and what you want, so you’re better equipped to navigate your career. Here’s how to actively turn your summer internship into a roadmap for personal and professional growth—and not let it simply pass by

Before: Set and prioritize your goals
If you had one day to explore a new city, you’d shortlist things you absolutely can't miss, and plan which to hit first, which to save for later. Similarly, it’s a good idea to set and prioritize goals for your internship early on. Think ahead about the key experiences, skills or achievements you want to take away. This gives you a checklist for your time at the agency, so that at any point, you know how you're doing against your own goals. 

Think about these questions to help build your list of goals:

  • What skills do I want to learn?
  • What strengths do I want to develop? 
  • What weaknesses do I want to address?
  • What type of projects do I want to work on?
  • (The job description of the internship is a great place to find goals.)

Think about where you want to be in 1-2 years. Include the skills you’ll need to be competitive as an applicant for a role the next level up. If you don't have a definite idea of your career path at this point, no worries! Focus on skills that are necessary for all roles—things like presentation skills and cross-team collaboration. Once you’ve mapped out your goals and expectations, be sure to share them with your manager so s/he can help guide you in the right direction.

During: Track your goals
Check in with your goal list periodically to make sure you’re on track. A great way to do this is by keeping an internship Experience Log. Rather than just listing the tasks you did, arrange any new task you're assigned by type and takeaways. You can create a table on Google Sheets, Excel or Word, like so:

Track goals for your internship

Add tasks to your log whenever you work on new, noteworthy projects. Revisit it periodically to see how the work lines up with the goals you set. If you haven’t been given the opportunity to meet one of your goals yet, be sure to bring it up with your manager. Also, look out for projects that pertain to your goals, and proactively offer to help out. 

After: Reflect and self-assess
As you build your Experience Log, you’ll start to notice patterns. Are there certain clients you enjoyed working with, or types of projects you loved? Which tasks did you crush, and which gave you the hardest time? What did you dislike doing the most? Taking note of your feelings and capabilities will provide insight into what to look for—or avoid—in your next job/internship

Chances are, you'll love your internship. But even if you don't, the time won't be wasted—understanding what you don't want to do is just as valuable. With clear goals and periodic reflection, the experience you gain will help point you in the right direction.

Now go rock that internship,
Natalie (+ Amanda, We Are Next's own Content Strategy Intern)