I am UIC: 5 tips for having a successful and meaningful internship

Hello! I am back with some new tips and insights to share, in honor of summer internship-search season being just around the corner.

When it comes to internships, I would not say that I am an expert, but I have definitely had LOTS of experience in the search process. After interviewing for many different organizations, and emailing countless people (practically begging them to give me a chance), I’ve been let down many times, but it’s helped me to end up where I need to be and equipped me with valuable skills I need to succeed.

I finally found an organization that I am absolutely in love with, and I want to share some important tips that I have learned so that you can intern at a place that makes absolute sense for you.

These are the five most important things you have to know when looking for an internship:

  1. Know where you want to be, but be open-minded. As a CLJ major, I thought I really wanted to work for a state or federal institution. I ended up NOT digging the work environment at all. The place I am now is a nonprofit, super grassroots and small, and I feel so much more comfortable being here. Be OK with expanding your search and taking a chance on somewhere different and unconventional.
  2. Know the mission. Love the mission. If you want to get the most out of an internship, pay particular attention to the organization’s mission statement. Make sure that your values align with theirs because you are going to be spending a lot of time supporting this organization.
  3. Know your skills. Know what you are good at, and know what skills you want to strengthen! The work environment is the perfect place to gain hard skills that college cannot offer you.
  4. Know you are valuable! One thing that I need is affirmation that I am doing a job well, or if I need improvement. Something I love so much about the place I am interning right now is the fact that all my co-workers are extremely supportive of one another. They don’t make me feel like an outsider at all — they all know my name, ask me questions, share stories with me, and include me in the work environment. That is something I didn’t know I needed until I was here.
  5. Know the community! Use your internship as an opportunity to explore! I am working on the South Side, and I am so grateful for the opportunity I have to take my learning outside of the UIC campus. I am getting course credit (yo… if you intern during undergrad, make SURE you are getting course credit from your department) to be hands-on in the community, and I am learning about Chicago in very new and important ways. Be willing to be exposed to new places, new people and new experiences. This type of learning is priceless.

That is it! Be willing to seek lots of input, and ask for help if you don’t know how to start. Finding an internship can be very hard and discouraging, but don’t be in a rush to find one, either. It is better to patiently look and wait for the right opportunities than to end up with an organization that does not want to teach you or give you a meaningful experience. Good luck, polish those résumés, and put yourself out there!

 

Abigail Floresca is a junior majoring in criminology, law and justice with a minor in professional writing. Writing is how she connects, processes, expresses and relates to the rest of the world. Increasingly aware of the power of storytelling in bringing about change and reform, Abigail earnestly seeks to find a way to incorporate a perfect blend of writing and social work within the criminal justice system — she dreams of bringing about a positive change, one story at a time. At UIC, she is involved in campus ministry; conducts research with the criminology, law and justice department; interns with the Chicago Justice Project, and loves exploring new places downtown.