The process of finding an internship can be daunting. Perhaps you had to find one on your own, or maybe you were assigned a site by your school. In my case, I had to find my own internship and I needed it to coordinate with my full-time work hours. Hard? Yes! Impossible? Not at all.
Reflecting back on the internship experience brings me to this series of posts. Check out tips on securing your internship, and once you’ve secured one, here are some ways that you can make the best of your experience.
Try It On: Internships are not just a degree requirement; they’re a great way to try on your new role as a Mental Health Counselor. Convinced you want to work with adolescents? Try it on for size in your internship. Internship sites might have a defined role for you, but there’s no harm done in citing your interests. Conversely, try challenging yourself by working with a population you are not familiar with. Not only will you broaden your skill-set but working with a different population may open you up to new interests and aspirations.
Do the Prep: When I learned that I got the internship I wanted, the first thing I did was yelp with joy and relief. Hooray, I get to counsel offenders. Ummm…what does that mean exactly? I trotted right on over to my school’s library and checked out a few books/ articles on exactly that subject. Preparing is not about mastering a subject before you start it (and if you think you’ll master anything during your internship, think again!); instead it’s about coming to the table with a level of understanding that will ultimately help you better comprehend what you learn at your site and help you better facilitate conversations with the site’s staff and supervisor. It also does a world of good in relieving the first client jitters.
Fill the Gaps: Want to make an impression? Good interns follow the rules and do their work well. Great interns do all of that and find ways to enhance the agency. Are you good at organizing? Maybe you can recommend a new filing system that will help staff and other interns do their work more effectively. Or create a new orientation manual to help future interns begin their work at the agency. Or create a library where articles and books are readily available for interns and staff. Many of my fellow classmates started brand new groups and workshops for clients. They recognized a gap, a need, and took initiative to create something new (I should also mention that many of those classmates were offered positions post-graduation.)
Ask Away: Wherever you are, don’t forget that you are there to learn. What better way to learn than to ASK QUESTIONS. Ask them of your supervisor, of your peers, and of the site staff. As an intern, I was full of questions. At least 30% of my supervision consisted of me rattling off a list I’d prepared. What I found was that I started to get answers and a deeper understanding of the work of counseling. I also found that other interns had the same questions (and those that are less vocal appreciate when their unasked question gets answered!) Be fearless – ask away.
What are some ways other interns have enhanced their internship experience?
Stay tuned for more on the topic of internships…