After your internship: the importance of being reflective
By Weronika Z Benning, on 23 May 2016
With so much emphasis placed on the ‘before’ and ‘during’ phases of an internship, it can be easy to forget just how important it is to put time aside at the end of the experience to ensure you are truly making the most of it. The benefits don’t, and certainly shouldn’t, come to a grinding halt the minute you leave the office on your last day and, whilst things are still fresh in your mind, this is absolutely the best time to indulge in a bit of reflection.
Evaluate what you have learned
Take time to think about the skills you learned and developed, both technical and transferable. If you didn’t receive a formal appraisal during your time within the organisation, think about any informal feedback or comments that you received. Make concise notes of the roles you played in projects, the responsibilities you were given, and the skills you used in order to make this happen. Can you identify what you feel was your biggest achievement? Or the area where you made the most impact? Make a record of names of colleagues, departments you worked within, projects you were involved with – all this detail will be much clearer to you now and may be needed in the future.
What would you do differently?
Hindsight is a great way of learning and improving, so put time aside to think of any ways you could have made the experience better, or that you would change if there was a ‘next time’. Perhaps you felt unprepared on your first day and would have benefited from a bit of time spent researching? Maybe time management wasn’t your strong point and you need to do some learning around ways of planning your working day in order to meet deadlines more comfortably? Alternatively, this may be a question of proactivity and doing everything you can to make the most of the opportunities afforded to you. Do you regret not asking more questions? Perhaps there is a particular area of business you would like to have learned more about but never had the confidence to put yourself forward. Mistakes are there to be learned from.
Review your own goals and expectations
Evaluate what the experience has taught you about your own career aspirations. Work to identify areas of the internship that you particularly enjoyed as well as departments within the company that interest you the most. Can you see yourself working in that role, that organisation, that industry…? If not, what would work better for you and why? Don’t forget to review your own developmental goals too – can you think of ways of plugging any skills gaps that became apparent? Or perhaps the experience made you appreciate your own capabilities to an extent that you now feel ready to target career opportunities that before felt unreachable? If you want help with reflecting on the experience and how it can help you with your career planning book an appointment with a Careers Consultant
So, aside from the practical tasks that the end of an internship should initiate (eg. updating your CV and ensuring you are connecting with contacts via LinkedIn) don’t underestimate the benefits that can be gained from some good old fashioned thinking time. As much as we want to rush on to the next thing on our ‘to do’ list, give yourself time and space to properly consider and reflect on the experience. Internships are a wonderful opportunity that you should seek to make the very best of, both before, during AND after.