Internship Prep: The Ultimate Checklist for 2024 Interns

Whether this is your first time looking up information about internships, you have your first interview in a few hours or start next week, taking your first steps into the professional world can be overwhelming. Beyond just another bullet point on your resume, internships can be launchpads into full-time positions, networks for future career opportunities, and invaluable learning experiences.


But how do you ensure that your internship is a fruitful venture that aligns with your long-term goals? From the application process to the last day in the office, each step is a building block in this foundational career experience. Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you make the most of your internship and set a solid grounding for your professional future.

internship prep

Understanding the Significance of Internships

Before we dive into the nitty-gritty of securing and making the most of an internship, it’s crucial to grasp why internships are invaluable. Internships offer students and graduates the chance to gain real-world experience, figure out what they like (or don’t), and make connections in their chosen field. They are opportunities to test the waters, fine-tune skills, and understand the day-to-day operations of a workplace.


For many industries, internships also serve as pipelines for talent. Employers often use them to evaluate potential new hires, so an impressive internship can be an open door to future job offers. They can also be a way to bridge the gap between academia and industry, helping intern fulfill academic requirements and make strides toward their career goals.


The Statistics Speak

According to a 2022 study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, around 68% of paid internships end with full-time job offers, which is a testament to the strategic role internships play in the hiring process. Whether paid or unpaid, these experiences can significantly enhance a young professional’s marketability.


Finding an Internship

One of the most daunting parts about interning can be finding a position to begin with. Aside from just applying on LinkedIn, it’s important to leverage your network and the resources available to you.


Some great connections you can look into:

  • Connect with professionals in your field: attend career events, connect on social media, and seek out informational interviews.
  • Think about people you already have a connection with: Does a family friend have a spouse in your ideal field? Are there any former classmates that went on to land your dream career?
  • The people who are already helping you would love to see you thrive: Do you have an advisor for Greek Life or an extracurricular had experience in the industry? Check with professors, teachers, and counselors to see if they have any leads.


Local to San Diego? Check out opportunities available with local STEM companies through the SD2 Interns Program!


How to Prep for an Internship Interview

You’ve applied and scored your first internship interview- this is a significant achievement in the competitive world of internships. This is your chance to shine and prove that you’re not only a good fit but the best candidate for the role.


Research the Company

Know the ins and outs of the company you’re interviewing with. Understand their mission, values, industry position, and recent projects. This knowledge will help you ask informed questions and show your genuine interest in their organization.


Practice Common Interview Questions

Prepare responses for common internship interview questions. Remember to focus on specific examples that demonstrate your skills and experience. Practice with a friend or in front of a mirror to refine your delivery.


Some common interview questions are:

  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
    • Our tip: If you get asked about what your biggest weakness is, be honest, and prepared to spin it in a positive way. For example: “My greatest weakness is time management, but with the exciting responsibilities that I would have with this position and my trusty planner I’m prepared to overcome that during this internship.”
  • What made you apply for this internship?
  • How do you handle pressure?
  • Do you prefer to work independently or with a team?
  • Tell us about a time you did well at a job or made a mistake.


Be Mindful of Your Digital Footprint

Employers often check social media profiles to get a sense of a candidate’s character. Make sure your online presence reflects the way you’d like to be perceived by professionals. Remove or adjust any content that might undermine your application, or consider making your profiles private. Remember- this could be different in every field, so use your best judgment.


How to Prepare for an Internship

Once you’ve landed the internship, it’s time to gear up for the experience. Preparation can make the difference between a challenging yet enriching time and a stressful one.


Get Organized

Sort out any necessary paperwork, such as contracts or non-disclosure agreements, well in advance. Make a checklist of what you may need to bring and have your work wardrobe ready.


Are you working remotely? Make sure your computer is up-to-date with the software you’ll need.


Brush Up on Relevant Skills

If there are specific software programs or technical skills you’ll need, take the time to refresh your knowledge. There are often free or low-cost resources online to help you become competent in these areas- check out YouTube, your local library, or your school’s counselor or career center.


Dress to Impress

If this is your first time entering the professional world, chances are your wardrobe may need a little refresher. Take the time to reach out to your supervisor to see if there’s a dress code or expectations for attire. You’ll want to invest in a few business casual staples, like a blazer, dress pants, and nice shoes that will last a while and work with wherever you end up post-grad.


Set Your Expectations

Understand what will be expected of you during your internship, whether it’s certain projects or a minimum number of work hours per week. Having clear expectations prevents any misunderstandings later on. Speak with your supervisor, study your offer letter, and see if there are any past interns you can connect with.


Your First Day as an Intern

It’s the big day! Chances are, this is your first time stepping into the professional world so nerves are common. Start your experience confident and ready to learn by:


Arrive Early

Punctuality is a mark of professionalism. Arriving early not only shows that you’re taking the opportunity seriously, but it also gives you some buffer time to deal with any unexpected hiccups on the way.


Introduce Yourself

Make it a point to greet everyone you meet with a smile and a handshake. Remembering names and positions early on can help you integrate into the team more quickly.


Observe and Absorb

Your first few days will likely involve a lot of listening and observing. Take note of the office culture, the way tasks are delegated, and the communication styles within the team.


Setting Goals for Your Internship

Having objectives can give your internship structure and purpose. Here are five goals to consider as you start your internship.


Learn as Much as Possible

Absorb information like a sponge. Ask questions, take on challenging tasks, and be proactive in seeking out learning opportunities.


Network Intentionally

Don’t just focus on your immediate team. Use your time to connect with other departments and professionals in your field. You never know who might be able to offer invaluable career advice or opportunities.


Contribute Meaningfully

Approach every task with enthusiasm and a mindset to make a positive impact. Whether it’s a small administrative task or a major project, your diligence and quality of work will not go unnoticed.


Develop Transferable Skills

Look for ways to enhance skills that can be applied to any job, such as time management, teamwork, and problem-solving. These are the skills that set great interns apart from good ones.


Reflect on Your Professional Development

Internships are as much about self-discovery as they are about gaining professional knowledge. Reflect on what you’ve learned and how it might impact your career trajectory. Make adjustments to your goals and aspirations as needed.


Ending the Season on a High Note

Wrapping up your internship is just as important as the beginning. It’s a chance to cement the relationships you’ve built and leave a lasting positive impression.


Ask for Feedback

Before your last day, request a formal review of your performance. Constructive criticism can be the best way to grow and improve. It also shows your employer that you value their input.


Express Gratitude

Thank those who have mentored you or supported you during your internship. A heartfelt thank you note or a small token of appreciation can go a long way.


Get a Letter of Recommendation

If your performance review goes well, ask your supervisor for a letter of recommendation to keep in your back pocket. It can come in handy when applying for full-time positions, another internship, or the next step in your educational journey.


Keep in Touch

Connect with colleagues on LinkedIn and send a professional message now and then to keep the lines of communication open. You never know when a past connection might lead to a future opportunity.


Advice for Interns

Internship success is about more than checking a box on your to-do list. It’s about actively crafting your career path. Remember to:

  • Be resilient: Not every task or feedback will be enjoyable, but every experience is a learning one.
  • Stay organized: Juggling intern duties with your personal life and possibly part-time jobs or classes can be a challenge. Develop a system that works for you to keep on top of your responsibilities.
  • Be proactive: Don’t wait for tasks to come to you; volunteer to help with projects or ask if there’s anything you can support with.
  • Enjoy the ride: This is a time of exploration and growth. Take the time to engage with the professional world and enjoy the unique experiences each day brings.


By approaching your internship with purpose and preparation, you’ll not only meet its challenges but also exceed its expectations. This is just the beginning of a promising career, and your dedication now will pay dividends as you progress in the professional world.


Remember, every successful professional started with their version of this first – the internship. Make it count.