The last Thursday in July marks National Internship Day for many international students, and this year Edge Hill University has employed 20 digital interns to work alongside the Learning Technology Development team to support the move from Blackboard Original to Blackboard Ultra.

One of our student interns, Michelle Hopwood, has given us her account of what it takes and involves to become a student intern at Edge Hill.

The path to being an intern in any organisation is like stepping into a pool of new learning opportunities and experience to develop as a student and as a person. Internships expose students to real life scenarios, responsibilities and challenges that cannot be learnt from a book or journal article. Whether a summer internship, a module placement, or a year long internship, being an intern offers students valuable development and growth opportunities.

Step 1: The Internship journey begins – navigating the application process

The brave first step on any internship journey involves sourcing and applying for an internship role. This can be anything from updating a CV, completing a company specific application form or participating in a full assessment centre. This stage gives students the opportunity to shine, to show off their achievements and showcase skills that demonstrate their passion and dedication to their students and for the role advertised. Step one also reveals how networking and personal connections help support an application and play a crucial role in building a student’s work experience.

Step 2: Fitting in to stand out – adapting to a workplace culture

Day one of any internship brings a raft of emotions, and walking into a well established work place can be daunting. Real world workplaces can take some acclimatising to, which need resilience and self belief to be able to build rapport with colleagues and finding a mentor to help an intern settle in. It can be easy to feel lost and overwhelmed in the first few weeks, so a good onboarding process is vital, something to ask about in the interview to enable interns to establish whether the culture fits them.

Don’t forget to take something comforting with you on your first day, like a photograph of happy moments in your bag or a fancy new pen. Check with your manager if you can share your journey on LinkedIn too, free marketing for them and enhancing your graduate attributes to other future employees.

Step 3: On the job learning as you go

The benefit of an internship in comparison to a typical permanent role is learning as you go and having the opportunity to develop new skills and personal growth on your workplace journey. Understanding this important third step means you feel safe in making mistakes and recognise feedback as an important tool to improve and develop. This step is important in showing your enthusiasm and is not a time to sit back and rest, but show your interest and passion for the role, ask lots of questions, seek out and take on challenges to help find solutions, and use this time to expand your thinking beyond the books and classroom environment. Remember you will feel like a fish out of water but soon enough you will feel at home.

Step 4: Juggle the job by balancing the basics

Whilst the enthusiasm you are encouraged to display in step four is vital, do not confuse it with going at it full pace and reaching a point where you could be burnt out. Before you start your internship complete a LinkedIn course using your free account with your Edge Hill email address, some examples I have found useful are Learning Nano-tips to avoid burn out and learn how to keep positivity flowing.

Take time to learn how to balance a healthy work life strategy and ensure you have personal interests in your down time so your brain can take time away from the work you are learning and transforming into an experienced employee.

Step 5: Leave a lasting impression – Closing the internship on a strong note

Before you know it, your internship will be coming to an end. Use the last few weeks to leave a lasting impression. Showcase your accomplishments, connect with your colleagues on LinkedIn and seek permission to put a new acquaintance down as a referee. This closure time can also be used to scope opportunities for work and potential full time employment. Highlight you are available for projects, research and any voluntary work too if that is an option for you.

Step 6: It’s the final countdown

As your internship ends take time to refect on the experience. Note in your Graduate Attributes in PebblePad all that you have experienced, the skills gained, the emotions whether high or low that you felt – reflect on it all and build your attributes by using the STAR framework.

You will have a well written example ready for when job applications ask you those scenario questions. Don’t worry if your internship has not been what you expected or has had some lows, internships are not just about learning how, when and where you would like to work, it is also an opportunity to redraft the plan if the organisation or work wasn’t what you expected.

Whether your internship is a week, month or a year long experience there is always learning to be had and undoubtedly you will look back in years to come and realise the indelible mark on your career journey the internship made. So go change your future and do not think twice about applying for an internship

Blog post written by Michelle Hopwood