How to Make the Most of an Unrelated Internship

My dream is to be a high school math teacher. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of internships or jobs that fit neatly into that dream. This means that for the last two summers, I have spent summer at an internship that only sort of kind of related to the field that I want to enter. Perhaps, you’ve had the same problem. Through these experiences, I have discovered ways to leverage work experience that does not relate to my desired field.

 

Have clear goals

Something that I learned from my first internship that I carried into my second was to have clear goals in mind for the internship. My first internship was at a non-profit organization. During the first week of the internship, my supervisors asked me to create goals for myself in three areas. Because of this, I thought about how I could use my education background to help this organization with the program they were starting this year. I also thought about how I wanted to improve myself as a person. Simply writing these goals out helped me to focus my attention during my time there. Now, I can also tell future employers what I learned from this internship that will translate to my career. When my internship this summer came around, I was able to do the same thing. Now, I don’t have to worry about how to talk about these internships with an interviewer.

 

Look for overlap

I have realized that nothing lives in isolation. While I may think that what I have learned as a future math teacher has nothing to do with writing blogs, that is actually a lot of overlap. I have practiced writing in a professional matter. Writing blogs helps me to practice and improve that skill. I also have experience working with people in a collaborative environment which is happening at my current internship as well. Look for skills or topics that you use in your internship that might relate to your desired field. It might not fit perfectly, but you can tell future employers that you know how to use those skills in a variety of fields. This gives you creativity and adaptability that employers are looking for.

 


Leverage your boss

Companies hire interns because they want to improve the workforce. Interns aren’t paid well, and they don’t stick around long. Chances are your employer already knows this is not the area you want to work in long term. Have a conversation with your boss about how you can use the skills and knowledge you have from another area during your internship. This is something that has happened at both my internships. All of my bosses have known what my ultimate career goal is, and they have helped me find opportunities where I can use what I know.  You should also ask your boss how what you are doing at the internship might fit into what an employer in your career field is looking for. This is something that my boss at the non-profit did at the end of the summer. I was amazed to discover how the right language takes something that feels unrelated and transforms it into meaningful work experience.

Maybe you didn’t get the internship you wanted. Maybe there aren’t really any available in the field you want to pursue. That doesn’t mean that your internship can’t be impactful and helpful. Having the right mindset and focus is all it takes to make any internship move you toward your ultimate career goal.

6/7/2018

-Lydia

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