Senior Talk: Internship Preparations

Author: Katie Martin

In my last post, Preparing Now for Your Future Internship, I talked about the different things I've done while at Notre Dame that I believe prepared me for my internship. In this post, I want to highlight two of my friends' insights on what they believed prepared them for their internships.

First, I'll start with Sarah, who is a an accounting major in the Mendoza College of Business and interned with Deloitte Consulting LLP‎ in Charlotte, North Carolina.


I asked Sarah if she could think of something that helped her that she wasn't necessarily advised to do beforehand. In other words, I asked, "What advice can you offer an underclassman or prospective student that you feel you only learned through your experience?"

And she responded, "Bite off more than you can chew."

Immediately, I understood this brief response because I've been very familiar with Sarah's busy schedule over the past few years. She is someone who consistently balances more than a full class load, 2-3 jobs at once, dance club, and a busy social life. In some regards, I feel as though I did the same thing with my schedule as well, and I see how this benefited me and my ability to juggle different internship tasks and responsibilites.

We talked further about how our internships required us to keep track of all the multiple things we had to do whether that be short term or long term due dates, people to contact, information to forward, plans to make, etc. For me, having multiple deliverables or responsbilities, I was challenged to prioritize a workflow based on what's more important now or the degree of dependency other people have on my work/task. Sarah and I agreed that even writing everything down in an organized planner couldn't keep track of absolutely everything. She said having multiple activities and responsibilities in college helped her to be constantly "aware" and "alert" about everything she needed to keep organized in her head and on the go.

By saying, "bite off more than you can chew," Sarah doesn't mean become over involved to the extent that you can't contribute value to anything. Instead, it means challenge yourself to participate in a variety of activities that will challenge you to use your time efficiently as well as organize and keep track of all the responsibilites these commitments entail.



The other friend that I talked to, Maggie, worked at the Annunciation House in El Paso, Texas this summer. The Annunciation House provides shelter to economically disadvantaged immigrants and refugees; the internship was offered by the Center for Social Concerns. I wanted to talk to Maggie specifically because this was an internship that I felt was very different from my own and most of my other friends'. Being that this is an intensely emotional and challenging internship, I didn't know what to expect when I asked her what prepared her for it. Even so, I absolutely loved her answer.

Instead of talking about something that prepared her for the day-to-day tasks and challenges of her internship, Maggie spoke about what gave her the drive to pursue this internship in the first place. Maggie told me that, after taking classes and learning more about the reality of immigration and poverty, she thought to herself, "I just have to do this." In addition, theology classes at Notre Dame help strengthen her faith and the call to serve the poor. 

This direction of her response wasn't what I was expecting at all, but I like how it really made me think differently about what it means to prepare for something. And, even though we had entirely different experiences, I still felt as though I could relate on some level to what she said. Part of the preparation for a successful internship or a future career is having the solid motivation or "why?" behind why you're doing what you do. Maggie's "why" was an overwhelming strong call to serve the poor, and her motivation got her through the tough challenges she found in her internship.

For me, my "why" was that I wanted to be a considerably valuable component to my project team by the end of the summer. This goal alone inspired me to quickly learn otherwise dry and boring material and to do preliminary work that was otherwise dry and boring. Because I had a bigger "why" set up beforehand, I was able to get through the seemingly mundane tasks so that I could later on solve challenging problems and produce the needed deliverables for my team. Getting to hear "Thank God you were here!" at the end of my internship was something I'd imagined from day one, and this image inspired me to go above and beyond in moments where I otherwise felt like doing average work.

I never thought about it before talking to Maggie, but preparing your motivation before an internship is critical to being successful. For Maggie, it was a call to serve the poor and grow deeper in her faith, and this alone was her constant motivation throughout her internship and will be for her future work.