Last summer, I had the opportunity to participate in a 10-week research program in which I worked remotely. I was placed on a team consisting of myself and 3 other students, all of whom were rising seniors. As I had just barely finished my first year of college, this was a bit intimidating, and I was feeling nervous and underqualified. I wasn’t sure how I could contribute to our project, or make a lasting impression in a virtual setting. Looking back, although I inevitably made some mistakes, I was able to learn a great deal from this experience and gain more confidence in the professional world. Now, I am one week away from starting my summer internship program this year. Although I don’t yet know exactly what my days will look like, I want to share a few tips to help you prepare for a successful experience.
Learn to Self-Motivate
This is HUGE. Being able to self-motivate has been key to me surviving over a year of fully online classes. However, this skill is just as useful in any internship or professional experience. In my previous research project, I was tasked to create simulations using a software that no one on my team was familiar with. Rather than getting stuck here, I took the initiative. I emailed professors at my university that had more experience to get their insight on my goal. I also looked up tutorials online and followed them on my own to get familiar with the program. By motivating myself, I was able to be a better team member and create results that were vital to the project.
Keep Track of Progress
This can be especially useful for team-based projects. During my research program, my team utilized Trello (but there are tons of other programs out there!), and it helped us in several ways. First, we were able to easily update our mentors on what we had been working on each week. Second, it helped us break down a seemingly unreachable end goal into much smaller increments that felt more doable. Lastly, it allowed us to better delegate tasks among group members. Essentially, Trello doubled as a tool to help us stay organized, as well as a visual tracker of the progress we made.
Get Connected (Beyond requesting them on LinkedIn)
It’s not entirely about the work you produce, but also the level of connection you establish with everyone else: your coworkers, team members, mentors, and employers. These connections can be extremely beneficial for you and your future professional endeavors. Don’t get me wrong, try to produce as high quality of work as possible, but also don’t be afraid to talk about things that aren’t directly related to the position (when appropriate, of course). For example, when someone asks, “How are you?” or “How was your weekend?”, tell them! It can be as simple as that. Let others get to know you and your interests, and who knows? In the future, they may reach out if they see a position that you would be perfect for, or they might write a recommendation letter for you. For me, the director of last summer’s program wrote me the very recommendation that helped me acquire this summer’s internship!
Reflect on the Experience
If this is your first summer internship, no sweat! Go in open-minded and ready to learn. If you’ve previously had an internship or job, take some time to think about what worked for you, and also what didn’t. Maybe there are some strategies you used previously that you want to continue using. Maybe there are some mistakes that you made, but now know how to avoid.
In the end, remember that this experience is FOR YOU, and you have a lot to learn, but that’s exactly the point!
Christine Huang is a second-year Mechanical Engineering Major and Pinnacle Scholar at Stevens Institute of Technology. As a freshman, Christine was a participant in EWAAB’s Encourage Her mentorship program which empowered her to step out of her comfort zone and embrace her womanhood with more confidence. She is also interested in the visual arts, and is passionate about bringing creativity to her work. Christine participated in the 2020 Maritime Security Center Summer Research Institute, and will be taking part in an entrepreneurship program with the U.S. Department of Energy during summer 2021.