Making the Most of Your Internship

JP Mathe

Meet JP, Brightwild’s summer design intern. This blog is part of a two-part series where we'll hear from JP and his co-op supervisor, Elizabeth Baldwin, about his internship experience and Elizbaeth’s management of him while at Brightwild.

As a student attending the College of Design, Art, Architecture, and Planning (DAAP) at the University of Cincinnati, I participate in the Professional Practice Program, consisting of alternating semesters of classroom study with work as a co-op. In other words, one semester I'm in studio classes at UC, the next semester I'm interning full time as a designer. This structure of study has led me to work with incredible companies and gain insight on ways to fully utilize my time at each co-op.

While starting new co-ops can be challenging, each experience has presented me with chances to learn, grow and make lasting impressions. Here are some key factors that helped me make the most of my current role and eased my integration from the classroom to Brightwild.

I believe there are a few key strategies for success in an internship that can help ease the integration and transition from the classroom to the role, and these are the five that helped me have a successful few months while interning: 

  1. Be Proactive
  2. Learn from All
  3. Set Clear Goals
  4. Embrace Company Culture
  5. Documentation 

Alright, let’s dive in to each of those and how I interpret them: 

Being Proactive

Internships go beyond observation. I have come to realize the importance of taking the initiative to ask for tasks and projects while openly voicing my ideas and feedback. Being encouraged to show enthusiasm for learning and contributing while at Brightwild has given me a better understanding of the company and has amplified the overall knowledge I am taking away from my semester of work. An example of when I implemented this during my internship was when I had a moment of down time or felt that I was wrapping up a project, I would check in with my supervisor to see where I could lift some load from her or have another project assigned to me.

Learning from Everyone

In a co-op or internship, it goes without saying you'll interact with a diverse group of professionals at various levels of experience or skill sets. I’ve found it best to embrace the opportunity to learn from everyone you encounter, whether it's your direct supervisor, fellow interns or other employees. Because I have been encouraged to engage proactively during my time here, I take advantage of each conversation I have, whether it be with my coworkers on the brand team, those who specialize in other areas of the company or even meetings with external design agencies.

Setting Clear Goals

I try to remind myself while on co-op that the position is temporary, so it’s important to prioritize what you want to get out of each position. At the beginning of an internship or co-op, it’s vital to set goals for yourself. This is something my supervisor Elizabeth and I made sure to do during my first week. Whether it's mastering a particular skill or completing specific types of projects, having clear objectives will give your internship more of a sense of purpose. It’s also important to regularly assess your progress throughout your experience with your supervisor or even yourself. I met with Elizabeth weekly to check in on my goals and ensure I was on the right track to completing everything I set out to do. For example, a goal that I set for myself this semester was to work on my communication skills in a professional setting. I met this goal by practicing clear and concise communication on a daily basis, following proper formatting for effective feedback and eliminating unnecessary filler words both in my written and verbal communication.

Seeking Feedback

Feedback is an extremely important tool for personal and professional growth. Actively seeking feedback from my supervisors and colleagues during my co-op allowed me to work in a way that benefited everyone, not just myself. Receiving constructive criticism on the job aided me in understanding my strengths and areas for improvement. This has helped me tremendously with both achieving my goals and meshing into the role and company faster. Receiving feedback from others has also helped me work on giving feedback in more constructive and direct ways.

Embracing Company Culture

Immersing yourself in the company culture is, in my opinion, essential for a successful internship experience. When I started at Brightwild, I made a point to observe how my fellow employees interact and subsequently adapted to the company's communication style. By the end of my time here, I’ve found that I was able to seamlessly fit into the team because I embraced and practiced the ways they worked and communicated. It was also a plus being surrounded by a team that went above and beyond to encourage my acclimation through weekly check-ins. 

Documenting & Acknowledging Achievements

Keeping track of my accomplishments and the projects I worked on during my co-op allowed me to reflect on my growth and achievements throughout my time at Brightwild and helped me recognize what I was doing successfully so I could continue to do so. This team makes a point to call out wins whenever they happen, which not only allowed me to recognize them, but furthered my drive to deliver.

What I’ve ultimately learned in my experience is that an internship or co-op should be seen as an opportunity to lay the groundwork for your professional career. By being proactive, staying curious, setting goals, seeking feedback and embracing the company culture, you can make the absolute most of your experience. My time at Brightwild has not only confirmed these factors, but has built upon them for the benefit of my career in ways that’ll carry with me for years to come.