For the purposes of this post, I'm going talking about supervisors for undergraduate internships. A supervisor in this capacity is sort of like your boss if your internship were your job. However, internships are about getting experience. Interns are students in the workplace, not an employee. A good supervisor is someone interested in supporting your learning.
Another characteristic of a good supervisor is someone who can and will give you feedback - both kinds of feedback... They should be letting you know what you are doing well and what you need to improve. They should be able to tell you what your current strengths are and your weaknesses in the workplace. You want your internship supervisor to be able to do this. It's important. I recognize that just as it can be challenging for students to hear constructive/critical feedback, it can also be challenging for supervisors to provide it in an accessible way. There are some supervisors who will lower their expectations and lean heavy on positive feedback without providing reasonable critical feedback. This is a bummer because the constructive critical feedback is essential for your learning. To any supervisor out there who finds giving constructive/critical feedback or saying "weakness" a challenge, say it with me now:
"I like you AND you need to work on this..."
Actually, don't say that out loud. You can just think it. The point is to remind yourself that providing accurate critical feedback is part of supporting students. It is because you like student and want to support them that you need to give the feedback. And guess what, you need to do it for students that you don't necessarily like too.
Students... for you, think of why I say "don't fear the ink." When a teacher passes back a paper full of revisions and comments, that is them helping you IMPROVE. Sure, feel a bit guilty if you threw together the paper at the last minute making your teacher comment on things you could have revised if you had reviewed the draft yourself, but even if you had polished the draft to the best of your abilities, the teacher should still have feedback for you. It is part of the process. Your supervisor has the responsibility to provide similar feedback to help you grow. Now if they are calling you out because you are slacking, that needs to be said too. Handle it graciously and stop slacking.
|Hint about who we are recognizing on March 18th.|
The person who we've chosen to recognize this year is someone who can give feedback. She is very honest and direct about constructive feedback. She is warm and kind, which definitely makes it easier to hear what needs to be improved. I know this because when I met with her recently I asked for what our program could do to improve these service-learning collaborations and communications. She had a number of suggestions. I asked her what she wanted potential interns to know. What she described was wanting students to be self-starters and more actively engaged. Ask what is next, in contrast to sitting back and waiting for their supervisor to suggest the next activity. Ask how you are doing, and if reasonable, what else you could do. Show initiative.
If you are a student, I wish you good supervisors, and I expect you to be a good supervisee. The reason why this is important is that your supervisors' impression of you matters as much, if not more than your professors' impressions. Sure, graduate school might require academic references, but employers probably value a workplace reference more than an academic reference. I'm not saying blow off classes. I'm just saying you should regard internships, and even service-learning projects, as job interviews. Indeed, we have several alumni who ended up employed by their internship organization within a year or two of graduation. Think about it, as an intern you've been trained already and the supervisor already knows whether you are a good fit. In our region, community partners are highly networked. Making a good impression on one can help inform another partner's decision as to whether to hire you. Conversely, leave a community partner with an impression that you are apathetic or irresponsible, and you may be tanking some of your future job prospects.
As an aside, let me tell you about a habit that you might have that leaves a very negative impression on community partners in general. It has to do with your cell phone. I don't care if the culture of the organization is one that allows text/message checking at meetings or if you observe others doing it, if you are an intern do not assume it okay for you to check your phone. Checking your phone makes you look your mind is elsewhere, and you are not listening to what is going on. If you can't control yourself, leave the phone in your car or turn it off.