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What Interns Should Expect from an Internship

What should you expect when you are hired as an Industrial-Organizational Psychology intern? While there are many different types of internship opportunities, there should be some common expectations. Below is a brief list of what an intern should expect from their engagement:

  • Roles on projects may be initially limited until your experience is developed. For example, roles often include data analyses, literature reviews, note taking in meetings and focus groups, assisting in writing sections of reports, etc.
  • While these roles may not appear substantive, their largest value is in being able to see and experience aspects of projects. You may not get to do everything, but you should ask questions continuously.
  • It is unlikely that you will be able to see a project from start to finish unless you are there for a year or more. It is important that you ask questions to get an understanding of the entirety of the project.
  • Participation in project work may be limited to one project in one area. But there are likely a full range of projects going on across a range of I-O disciplines, so make sure you talk to people on other projects about what they are doing. This will help you find your interest areas.
  • There is more than one way to do most everything in I-O. Learn from as many perspectives as you can.
  • Seek out advice from non I-Os in external consulting organizations. Many organizations work collaboratively across functions in management of human capital consulting, so it will help you to understand how individuals with different backgrounds conduct consulting work.
  • Across all types of internships, you should expect to develop several skills, including written and oral communication, problem solving, critical thinking, and interpersonal skills. You should display professionalism at all times, and behave with a high degree of personal integrity.
  • It is also important to understand what the organization wants you to learn. This ranges from self-management – how to account for your time on your time sheet – to self-development – mastering specified I-O articles, techniques, and problem-solving techniques.
  • The sponsoring organization may want you to experience a broad range of client service interactions, or may ask for your assistance with just one major project and/or limit your exposure to client interactions. Regardless of the role you play, it is important to pay attention to how the organization approaches and serves clients.
  • Not all I-Os are good mentors. However, if the organization brought you in to be an intern it has committed to your development. Thus talk with the internship manager to find a better fit if one person is not providing the experience you need or want.
  • You should have a working knowledge of standard business software for word processing, databases, and presentations. It is helpful to know statistical analysis software.
  • Learn the sponsoring organization’s expectations in terms of working hours and attire.

In advance of the internship, try to learn the sponsoring organization’s niche – for example, does the external consulting organization work with private sector or public sector clients? If the internship is internal to an organization’s HR department, what are the primary services that the department is responsible for? What is the mission of the government agency?

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