Here at the museum, interns are an integral part of keeping our operation running smoothly.  They do not job shadow; rather, they are given responsibility and encouraged to complete their own projects.  There is always someone around to help out and mentor, but interns are doing real work.  Coffee making is left to those who need coffee, and interns must prove themselves able to make good coffee before they are even allowed to use the machine. 

Finding a quality internship can be a daunting task.  Most are too generic to be beneficial, and rarely to you find one that allows you to complete real work.  Making coffee runs and watching other employees balance budgets will not teach you the skills you’ll need later in your career.  As someone who has trudged through a multitude of internship postings and come through the other side, I would like to share 5 helpful things to look for when trying to find a quality internship. 

5 Signs of a Great Internship

1) The job description tells what you will be doing during your internship, not just what the company does.

Be wary of companies who only advertise what they do as a whole! Vague descriptions of what your internship will entail is usually a sign that it is not a full developed internship program. In some cases, they are just looking for someone to help out around the office and you might not be getting the most out of your time there. 

A clear job description will not only tell you what you can expect to learn during your time as an intern, but it will also show that the company has put real effort into developing their internship program. 

2) Your internship will give you opportunities to work on your own projects, with oversight when you need it. 

An internship should not be job shadowing.  While learning from mentors is incredibly beneficial, a quality internship should allow you to take on your own projects.  If you are only watching other people work on projects, you are not getting the same experience as if you were doing the work yourself.  Take on that extra responsibility! It will pay off 10 fold in your future endeavors.

DO REAL WORK

This will also allow you to present yourself better when you are entering the job market.  After your internship, you’ll be able to tell potential employers what YOU did, not just what you watched other people do. 

3) There’s perks.

Not everyone can afford to pay interns, so look for other opportunities to make your internship beneficial.  Some might be personal perks, like the ability to work from home or have a flexible schedule. Other perks might include a chance to travel or company swag.  College credit is a common way companies can help their interns. 

4) You are interested in what you will be learning.

A good internship will teach you skills that you are interested in.  A great internship will shape what you learn around what you larger career goals are.  If you are interning at a law firm for a semester, let them know what kind of cases you are particularly interested in working on.  Be open to  expanding your interests, but don’t spend your whole internship learning skills that won’t be relevant to you later in your career. 

5) There are clear goals set out, and a plan on how to reach them within a specific time period.

Before you start an internship, know what your goals are.  Know what you want to accomplish, and have a date do it by.  Internships with no clear objectives will have you making coffee runs and trips to the office supply store.  Be upfront about what you want to get out of an internship in the initial interview.  Not only will you look eager to learn, the company will know that you are here to work and gain new skills, not run errands. 

One last personal note before you go- Don’t limit yourself to a certain field. Most skills sets can carry over from field to field regardless of where you learned them. You may find the best internship somewhere you never would have expected.  Don’t get stuck on where you might end up.  Focus on the opportunities you’ll have to learn new skill sets along the way.

Good Luck, and Happy Hunting!