Internships are paid and unpaid work that meet course requirements and supplement a student's academics. Internships may be required at the high school, college, or graduate school level. The objective of an internship is to provide students with hands-on experience and training in their chosen field of study. Some academic programs require internships of their students while others don't. The responsibilities of an intern will vary widely depending on the student's field of study, but there are general duties that befit most interns regardless of age or field.
Integrate into Office Culture
Whether the internship is paid or unpaid, a successful intern will attempt to integrate herself into the office culture as if she were a full-time paid employee. This shows that she is willing to work hard for the agency regardless of her status as a student. Integrating into an office's culture can involve getting to know coworkers and supervisors, attending agency events, stepping up for opportunities to help, sitting on a committee or board, strictly adhering to all policies and regulations, and just generally behaving in a professional manner.
An intern is often saddled with the work that employees don't want to do themselves. This includes the tedium and minutiae of office work, including making photocopies, answering phones and returning phone calls, assembling paperwork, archiving documents, and updating lists. As long as these tasks do not dominate the intern's schedule or significantly hinder his growth and education, a good intern will complete these tasks dutifully in the interest of supporting operations. General usefulness and humility are highly sought qualities in all employees.
Contribute to Agency
Most interns aim to leave a lasting contribution on the agency. Depending on the field, this could include revising and updating old documents, creating new protocol or guidelines, implementing a new program, establishing a database or spreadsheet, streamlining communication, or any number of projects. This is not only for the benefit of the agency; the more impressive the contribution, the likelier the intern is to receive a job offer from the agency once he has completed the internship.
Complete a Final Project
Most internships have a capstone project that serves as the culmination of the student's intern experience. Following her internship, an intern will have to effectively demonstrate to her academic institution what she has learned during her experience in the field and how this translates to her current course of study. A final project could include an analysis, a report, a slideshow presentation, or a work of art.
Parker Janney is a web developer and writer based in Philadelphia. With a Master of Arts in international politics, she has been ghostwriting for several underground publications since the late 2000s, with works featured in "Virtuoso," the "Philadelphia Anthropology Journal" and "Clutter" magazine.