If you missed out on ‘Seeking Advice from Past Interns’ part 1, make sure to check it out here. I went over some do’s and don’t’s of asking questions to interns in the programs you’re interested in. Now we’re switching gears a little to facilitate some more meaningful conversations you can have.
Once you get your application-related questions out of the way I really, really, encourage you to have some discussion about the internship program itself. Try to get a well-rounded visual of the program as a whole. Here are some conversations to start you off:
What I’ve learned from being on the other side of the application process, is that every internship program is SO different. And one part that I wasn’t entirely aware of beforehand is that some are quite flexible and give you the autonomy to shape them to suit your own interests and goals.
What I mean is sometimes the placements within the internship program are not set in stone, and you can make some decisions about what placements you want to be included. Awesome! My program at Ryerson was like this – probably moreso than any other – and I did know that going in, but I didn’t realize that many other programs are flexible to some degree as well! Some of my colleagues have had ‘electives’ in their programs, which as far as I know, is a placement of their choosing in an area of interest.
It would be great to know about the flexibility of the programs you are applying to, because (A) This may sway you to choose one program over another, and (B) If they are flexible and grant you some autonomy, you can write your application (or conduct your interview) to demonstrate your ability to make those decisions.
Prior to applying to internship I always had the assumption that it would be like a full-time job with homework. Oh yeah, and no pay of course. What I didn’t realize was that the amount of “homework” varies drastically between programs, and even between placements.
Personally, I had fairly little homework to do when I was in internship, and I was surprised (and excited) by how much time I had to myself outside of work hours. Free evenings AND weekends?! What?! I haven’t had that since I was like 15.
However, some of my colleagues were not in the same boat and were nearly constantly working after work – so it really does vary. Having this conversation with interns is a good idea, to get a good sense of what you’re signing up for.
The Available Support
I was also surprised to see the variation in the amount of support provided to interns of differing programs. I really encourage you to look into the ‘management’ of the interns in your program of interest.
Internship can be a rollercoaster, not only with the fact that your workplace changes regularly and a lot of coordination needs to happen, but also because you end up working with a lot of different people – perhaps with different personalities, approaches, or expectations from your own. In both cases, it is a heaven-sent to have a third party to help you along. Having a conversation with previous interns about the support available to them if they encountered issues along the way, and about the organization and management of the various placements, would be a great conversation to have.
For example, one program that I’m familiar with, and has a great reputation, had some changes in management and this transitional time has made things a little up-in-the-air and rocky for their interns. A heads up on something like that would be great to have.
When I was choosing between two offers, this was pretty much a deal breaker for me. With some research and conversation, I got a sense that one program I was considering seemed to be much more organized and had many more supports in place for interns than the other did, and that was certainly a selling factor.
Real talk: You’re signing up to dedicate yourself to this program for about a year (give or take) so you’re going to want to make sure it goes as smoothly as possible. In a sense, this really is self-care.
So there you have it folks – the top three conversations I’d advise you to have before delving into a dietetic internship. Of course, asking further questions about the culture of the workspace, the day-to-day tasks, and the overall experience in the program is great too. Again, the more clear a picture you can paint yourself of the program, the better able you are to draw yourself in there – or maybe realize that it’s not quite where you want to be.