How to be a great intern

By Jackie Vanderburg, JVA Consulting Intern Supervisor

With the summer coming to a quick end and schools getting ready to reopen, JVA Consulting is sad to say goodbye to one of the best group of summer interns we’ve worked with. As many nonprofits and businesses in the social change sector are looking for new interns, we decided to share our experiences about what made our interns succeed at JVA. Our summer intern group is leaving JVA with more knowledge about social change and raving recommendations, which will be great assets for their future careers.

Jackie Vanderburg, Aaron Holland-Plum, Jeffrey Smith, Thomas Fristad and Emily Stanley at JVA's Intern Going Away Party

To help potential interns maximize their experience, we have a few tips as to how you can make a difference in your next internship.

Know your position and be prepared
When our interns first started, I was surprised by how prepared they were. They had browsed through our entire Web site and read literature about our company. They knew JVA as well as employees who have worked here for years. In the position descriptions JVA provides to all new interns, we set very clear expectations that the interns read and understood. They knew what their position required of them and prepared themselves to fulfill those requirements. Being prepared allowed them to enter our fast-paced work environment and thrive, instead of being lost and struggling.

Have a good attitude
One of the most important parts of an internship is attitude. It is important to always stay positive! Occasionally there will be work the interns are not comfortable with, but no matter the situation they should always remain positive. Our interns were always upbeat, had smiles on their faces and were ready to learn from the staff’s expertise. A bad attitude is always reflected in your work, so leave it at home!

Be proactive
It is great to see an intern who doesn’t wait for work to come to them. Once finished, instead of sitting around waiting for a new project, an intern should seek out work. By taking initiative, an intern has the opportunity to learn. Our interns did more than what was asked of them, which benefited the office. When interns are dedicated to their job and they enjoy it, it creates a positive relationship between them and the rest of the office.

Ask questions
Associates at JVA love questions! “Questions are great, because it ensures the intern is doing something successfully,” said Wendy Longwood, Vice President of Client Services. It’s important to ask questions to gain a better understanding of a project, but also take that information and apply it to other projects, which will help the quality of the work.

Be professional
When entering a business environment it is important to act and dress the part. Not once through the summer did we have to talk to an intern about their professionalism. It’s important to know the company’s dress code and policies. Interns should dress and act professionally. Avoid taking extended lunch breaks or making personal phone calls if not permitted. Unless these activities are part of your job duties, the office is not the place for tweeting and facebooking.

It’s always scary entering a new internship—a new environment where you’re working with strangers, and expected to do work you may not have done before. But with these tips you will show your new employer that you are a dedicated professional. By the end of your internship they will be saying what we at JVA are saying: “WE WANT OUR INTERNS BACK!”
JVA is currently seeking two part-time evaluation interns. One intern will conduct a literature review of data collection best practices and the other intern will support data collection for the external evaluation of a signature health science initiative. Click here for complete job announcements and application instructions.

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