Co-op Operative: The importance of reflecting on your internship

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The end of my work term was difficult: not only did I have to say goodbye to some of the best colleagues I have ever had, but I had to submit my work term report, which is a reflective report on what I have learned and accomplished during my internship.

While there are many people in the world who thrive on bringing their goals and experiences to life through mission statements or reflective journals, I am not one of those people. I prefer to demonstrate my strengths and accomplishments, not describe them (which is also a hindrance in interviews).

However, writing this report turned out to be a very cathartic experience for me. I began to see, for the first time, a clear picture of my potential career path and what steps I can take to reach my goals. Even if a reflective report is not required as part of your internship, I would recommend asking yourself the following questions about your work term:

What advice would you give to a student or recent graduate entering your position?

This is a particularly important question for young people in the workplace, who are likely trying out many different jobs. If you look back on your first few weeks in your job, you can assess what you did well and what you would like to improve on and apply what you learned when you begin your next job.

What do you like/dislike about your job?

Many people end up in careers that are not suited to them. While making a pro/con list may sound anal-retentive, fleshing out what you like and dislike about your job can make you realize that the career path you are on is not right for you. You many enjoy going to work because you have fun with your colleagues, but if the work is not important to you, you may regret not changing your goals when you had the chance.

What are the most enjoyable assignments you have worked on?

When I faced this question in my work term report, I immediately knew what I enjoyed doing, but I did not know why I enjoyed doing it. When I described the assignments, I immediately saw a correlation between them. For example, I really enjoyed creating PowerPoint presentations for events because they were independent projects, I was given creative license, and they were challenging.

Once you understand what type of tasks you enjoy doing, you can search for jobs that allow you to do that kind of work. Also, the more you understand your own strengths and interests, the better you can express yourself in interviews.

What career paths did your supervisors follow? What advice would they give to someone in your field?

One component of my work report was an informational interview with someone in my chosen field, preferably a supervisor.  If you learn about the educational background and work experience of senior staff in your chosen field, it becomes easier to imagine a career path that actually leads to your dream job.

The woman I spoke with is very dedicated to her job and has already moved up quite a bit, considering that she is only in her mid- to late-twenties. It gave me hope and a new sense of confidence to hear a success story from someone who is not a distant figure in a newspaper article or magazine.

Also, due to her four years of experience in the field of public relations, she was able to offer me invaluable advice. She reminded me that every industry, every company, every organization needs PR – I do not have to give up my passions, whether they lie in education or health care or abstract theatre, to pursue my career.

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About the author

Jocelyn Smith is currently in her third year of a combined honours arts in communication studies and English, with a minor in women's studies, at Wilfrid Laurier University. She says the most rewarding experiences of her life have been volunteering at Laurier's Women's Centre, becoming involved in theatre and learning that there are people willing to read her writing. Her true loves are reading and writing and her career goal is to find a way to be paid to do both.