Professional Confessional

A blog providing tips and resources for life after college

TIP: No Syllabus; No Grade

OPCD Expert Contributor – Patrick Sullivan, Associate Director of Career Education and Counseling

One of the biggest challenges about starting your internship is the ambiguity around what you are supposed to do. In college, you pick your courses well in advance, your professors provide a syllabus at the start of class and you know what you need to study to get a good grade on a test. If you are doing well at Wake Forest, you have probably figured out how to make this system work for you.

Your internship might come with a description of your responsibilities, but it doesn’t have a syllabus, there won’t be tests, and you won’t get a grade. How should you figure out what you need to do?

Watch the video highlighting suggestions for receiving feedback during your internship.

To learn more, read further for tips to help you get the feedback you need to succeed.

  • Ask for feedback. Because there isn’t a syllabus or a test in place, take it upon yourself to ask for feedback. Early on, ask for feedback from your peers. “What does the manager expect?”, “Is this the best way to prepare a presentation for the team?” are good questions for your peers. Once you have a basic understanding of your workplace and you have begun producing work that is of value to the organization, ask your manager for feedback. The answers to questions like, “How am I doing on this project?”, “Am I meeting your expectations on this project?”, or “Would you be willing to share your thoughts on what makes an outstanding intern/new hire?” can give you the direction you need to perform well.
  • Schedule informal interactions. If your workplace doesn’t have a formal review process in place (and let’s be honest, many organizations aren’t going to do formal reviews of their interns), make it a point to interact with your peers and your manager outside the workplace. Take someone to lunch and get their feedback. Take your manager out for a cup of coffee and ask for her input.
  • Try the formal approach. Here in the OPCD, we’ve designed an evaluation form designed to help you get the feedback you need. If you want more concrete information about your experience and the skills you developed, ask your supervisor to fill out the evaluation form at the end of your internship. Reflect on the feedback you receive and pursue opportunities to get better. And hey, although the form suggests that you seek input shortly before the end of your internship, it can be used at any time.
  • Act on feedback. This one’s important. If you get feedback from your peers or manager that suggests that you need to change something, you have to make that change. And let people know you are making that change. Telling your manager, “That idea you suggested? I tried it and you were right – it makes me much more efficient” is a great way to show that you are open to constructive criticism and able to grow personally and professionally.

So while there aren’t going to be tests or grades like you’ve had in college, you CAN still get feedback by purposefully interacting with your colleagues. What’s the result? The feedback you get will give you a better sense of your strengths and weaknesses. You can seek out training to develop skills that need improvement. You can build on your strengths to become a critical part of the team.

Just as important, though, is that you are developing relationships with colleagues that will be able to help you in the future. They can offer advice, feedback, and suggestions when you are ready to take your next step and they can be your biggest supporters as you get your full-time career started. Who knows – if things go well, they might be the people that you get your career started with!

Category: Professional Development

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