We are halfway through June and I know there are a lot of future dietitians out there gearing up to begin their dietetic internships this fall. Throughout the past 7 years, I’ve had the opportunities to both work with interns (high school, college and dietetic) AND be an intern myself. I’ve found lots of useful advice for completing an internship…. some of it I wish I had known prior to my internship!
Hopefully these tips will help anyone out there embarking on this new journey in the fall
10. Treat your internship like a job interview. An internship is one of the best ways to network and build professional relationships. Whether you come back to your preceptor for a job opportunity, as a reference or just for professional advice, you will probably use your preceptor as a resource later on down the road. Your internship is a chance to show your preceptor your skill set, your character and how hard you’re willing to work.
9. Be on Time. Do I need to elaborate? Just don’t be late. Period. Punctuality is a trait that is necessary in the workplace, so you might as well use your internship for practice. Do your best to identify things that will keep you from being on time and find ways to prevent these. For example: go to bed early. Wake up early and give yourself plenty of time to get ready. Set out clothes the night before. Ask for directions in advance so you’re not scrambling to try to find your way in the morning. If you’re traveling to a facility for the first time, scope out the location beforehand and leave early enough to account for the commute.
8. Dress the part. Look professional. This includes keeping a neat appearance, practicing good personal hygiene, and following the organization’s dress code. If you have to ask if something is okay to wear then it’s probably not. Here are some basics:
- Make sure your clothing is clean and wrinkle-free.
- Your pants should be the appropriate length.
- Wear close-toed shoes unless the dress code states otherwise.
- Avoid showing skin
- Check to see if nail polish is allowed.
7. Do your homework ahead of time. Understand your internship facility or organization before you even walk in the door. Research their website. Google your preceptor. Read any and all material that is given to you prior to your first day. Let your preceptor know that you are prepared and interested.
6. Respect your preceptor’s time. Whether or not your preceptor has an incentive to host you, having an intern does take up your preceptor’s time. Making arrangements with HR, filling out forms, responding to emails, taking phone calls and organizing tasks are all things that your preceptor will do throughout the course of an internship to help you. Anything you can do to expedite these tasks will be helpful to your preceptor, so pleaseeeee: follow through when they ask you to do something, respond to emails and phone calls promptly and be grateful that someone is willing to give their time to provide you with a new experience.
5. Keep communication professional. In our day and age of electronic communication, it’s easy to let this one slip… but don’t. When sending an email, address your preceptor appropriately and use professional communication throughout the correspondence. If your preceptor calls you, return the phone call (in other words, do not respond to a phone call with an email). Let your preceptor set the tone for how relaxed he or she wants to be with electronic communication.
4. Have a positive attitude. This will take you a long way. Trust me. Sometimes being an intern is not fun
3. Do whatever is asked of you to the best of your ability. Hopefully you will provided with tasks that are relevant to your skill set and stimulate your intellect. But there may be times when you asked to do smaller tasks, such as making copies or filing paperwork. Big or small, show your preceptor that you are interested in helping and that no task is beneath you.
2. Maintain a professional relationship after you’ve completed your internship. Stay connected with your preceptor and convey your appreciativeness of the time you spent learning from them. Occasionally contact them to let them know how you are doing and what you are up to. This will not only benefit you when you need a job reference, but also your preceptor may be more likely to think of you if a job opportunity becomes available.
1. Treat a negative situation as a learning experience. There’s a lot to be said about your character in a bad situation. Dietetic interns will complete several different rotations and work with more than one preceptor. In a perfect world, you will have a fulfilling experience where you meet amazing people and learn new things. But the reality is that you may be in a situation where you ultimately don’t have the best experience (I once hid in the bathroom and cried during one of my dietetic internship rotations). Remember that tough situations build your character and only make you stronger. If you encounter this kind of scenario (and I hope you don’t!), keep a positive attitude, use it as a learning experience and continue on in your professional journey.