5 Things I Wish I Had Known Before Starting My First Internship

By Merry Joseph, 2020 CPDC Internship of the Year Award Winner | Biomedical Engineering & Psychology Student | Presidential Intern

The months, weeks, and even days leading up to an internship are an exciting time—filled with anticipation and nervousness. Although you can’t predict what will happen, you can prepare to get the most out of your internship.

Here are 5 things I wish I had known before starting my first internship, which might help you be more successful!

    1. Give yourself time, do not rush the process
      Participating in an internship can be overwhelming, especially if it’s your first one. It’s easy to become anxious and burnt out when you’re trying to gel with new colleagues, understand your job, and execute projects successfully, all during the first few weeks of your internship. This is a mistake I made during my first internship. As time progressed, I realized how all of these things fell into place over time. Since your learning curve will likely be steep, take mindful breaks during the day or weekends to refuel yourself. Remember, slow and steady wins the race.


    1. Don’t be afraid to ask questions
      There’s no such thing as asking too many questions; you’re doing your internship to learn! Employers don’t select you for an internship because you are already an expert in an area. Rather, they believe you have the most potential to learn and become one.


    1. Learn how to ask great questions
      With that said, HOW you ask your questions matters greatly. Take a look at the following examples:
      “How do I find a genomic dataset for XYZ disease?”
      “I’ve looked through Google Scholar and PubMed for genomic datasets for XYZ disease, but none of them have sufficient samples. What are other ways I can find datasets?”
      Do you notice the difference? The first question lacks thoughtfulness and initiative, whereas the latter is specific and show’s you’ve done prior research to find an answer. Asking questions like the latter will help you make a positive impression on employers.


    1. Be proactive & take initiative
      Don’t let yourself become bored during your internship. Once you finish a task/project, it can be tempting to spend the rest of the day on your phone, browsing the internet, or doing homework. Fight the urge to do so! Rather, ask your coworkers or supervisor if there’s anything else you can do, or propose your own ideas for new tasks/projects. If you feel capable, don’t shy away from shouldering more responsibilities!


  1. Reflect on & log your experiences
    Before you know it, your internship will be over. In the rush to finish up tasks and get ready for your next endeavor, it’s common to forget to take time to reflect on and record all you’ve accomplished. Keeping a weekly/monthly log of the skills you’ve gained, tasks you’ve completed, and experiences you’ve had will help you immensely when the time comes for you to articulate your accomplishments in a future resume, personal statement, interview, or portfolio.

For additional support prior to starting an internship, you can schedule an appointment with a Career Coach or Internship Coordinator.

The Ins and Outs of Feeling Prepared for a Virtual Internship 

By Carmen Gold-Johnson, AD for Employer Engagement & Internship Development 

COVID-19 has forced many in-person internships to go virtual. To help you feel prepared for a virtual internship, we’ve outlined their benefits and drawbacks, below.  

Benefits of Virtual Internships 

  • Greater Access: Since you can complete virtual internships right from the comfort of your own home, it’s now easier than ever to do an internship before you graduate.  
  • Work Flexible Hours: In general, virtual work doesn’t have to happen between 8:00-5:00. Work with your supervisor to figure out a schedule that will work best for both of you and still allow you to fulfill the needs of your internship.  
  • Save Money & Time: Since you won’t need to commute to your internship site, you will save money on travel and can use the time you would be commuting to get your work done instead.  
  • Enhance Self-Management Skills: Working from home will help you gain skills in self-management and self-discipline. These skills will be great additions to your resume and be extremely useful to you throughout your career.  
  • Improve Technology Skills: Since you will be utilizing more technology platforms for your internship, you will become more tech savvy. This is a great skill you’ll be able to offer future employers.  
  • Build Community: Because you won’t be able to get to know your colleagues in the lunch room, you will need to intentionally reach out to them to set up video chats or coffee phone calls to stay connected. In doing you, you will develop great community-building and networking skills that you can use with any future employers.  

Drawbacks to Virtual Internships  

  • Lack of Motivation: Working from home can feel lonely, which can make it hard to muster up the motivation to keep working, day after day. To stay motivated, lean on your team, supervisor, and network to figure out a routine that will work best for you, and be prepared to adapt it as needed.   
  • Having no “office” experience: Understandably, you may be disappointed that you won’t be able to interact with your team at your physical office. However, it’s still important to collaborate and build relationships remotely. Be intentional about attending virtual team meetings and set up networking calls to help you feel like you’re an important part of the team, as you would be at the office. 
  • Different Communication: Since you won’t be in the office, you can’t just stop by your supervisor’s office to check-in or ask for feedback like you normally might. So, at the very beginning of your virtual internship, be sure to establish clear learning objectives and at least a weekly check-in meeting with your supervisor to help you stay engaged, track your progress, and complete your work.   

By now, we hope you have more clarity on the ins and outs of virtual internships so you feel more prepared to participate in one. Despite their drawbacks, they are great opportunities! For more support, reach out to a Career Coach in the CPDC or a member of the Internship Council. Good luck!  

Your Dream Job Could Be Just a DM Away 

By Olga Kingsbury, CPDC Career Coach 

Summer 2016: I had just graduated from my master’s program in TESOL from West Virginia University. For years, it had been my dream to become an English as a Second Language (ESL) instructor and help international professionals develop their communication skills in English. Due to family circumstances, I had to stay in Morgantown, town of 30,000 people, after I graduated, so mjob search options were rather limited. After having no luck getting a couple of ESL positions, I had become frustratedThe right job just wouldn’t come. By that time, I had expanded my job search by applying for university positions outside of ESL, but it did not help. I COULD NOT GET A JOB.

I was lying on my couch one night, mindlessly scrolling through my Instagram feed, when a post by Lena Yasenkova, a worldfamous make-up artist, caught my attention. She and her team were at New York fashion week getting models ready for the runway. “What a blessing...” – I thought – “…to have a job doing what you love the most AND get world recognition for it”.  

I don’t know where my next impulse came from, but I decided to direct message (DM) her: 

  • Hey Lena! I really admire your work. I am an English Language Instructor and I would love to teach you and your team online. Your team travels all over the world and I was hoping I could help you develop your professional communication skills in English.  

When I sent the message, I did not have much hope of hearing backLena had 70,000 followers and I doubted she even read all the DMs people sent her. So, I went straight to bed.  

The next morning, I opened my Instagram and guess what I saw in my inbox?! A DM from Lena! My heart started pounding. It said: 

  • Hey Olga! Thanks for texting me. I would love to collaborate! Here is my phone number, let’s chat today.  

I could not believe what had happened – I had just gotten myself a job by sending a DM! Later that day, I talked to Lena about what platform and materials we would use for instruction and how her team would pay me.  

For the next couple of months, I taught English to a group of 10 worldclass professionals on Lena’s team from the comfort of my own home, and made a decent income. 

What I got out of this experience, however, was much more than an impressive line on my resume. I learned that sometimes your dream job is just a DM away.