Preparation for the Real World: Political Science Internship Behavior; What Kind of Advice Do You Give College Students as They Prepare for a Public Management Internship in a Non-Academic Environment?

By Kelly, William E. | The Public Manager, Winter 2004 | Go to article overview

Preparation for the Real World: Political Science Internship Behavior; What Kind of Advice Do You Give College Students as They Prepare for a Public Management Internship in a Non-Academic Environment?


Kelly, William E., The Public Manager


Although this article concerns recommended behavior for a student who serves as a political science intern, it has value for other students who serve other types of internships. Students from a wide variety of disciplines should find it very beneficial. The article focuses on attitudes, values, and forms of behavior that are beneficial to students in a practical type of learning environment often characterized by a set of rules, customs, and forms of behavior not generally found in a purely traditional academic environment.

Understanding Consequences

A political science student should be quite serious when serving as an intern. This implies that the student should act and behave in a particular manner. One should remember that an internship has the potential to have a large effect on one's future career. It not only gives a student certain insights about a profession that can only be obtained in a practical environment, but it might later also become a major factor in a student securing full-time employment. One should remember that in a competitive job market, getting one foot in the door puts you one step ahead of your competition.

There are a number of potential negative effects that may come about when a student does not complete an internship in a satisfactory manner. For example, a student's reputation may be hindered in the future, and the grade received by the student may be adversely affected by a poor internship performance. In addition, the reputation of the professor who might have been asked to comment on the student's potential as an intern and who recommended the student for the internship could be undermined by the intern's poor performance. Of course, the willingness of the agency to accept future interns may be affected by a student's demeanor and activity as an intern. It may very well decide not to offer future internship opportunities for students who otherwise might have been able to perform quite well as interns. Thus, a student should take the internship experience quite seriously.

Students should always realize that an internship experience could be used as an important reference later in one's professional career. In many cases, the internship will be the first item on a young graduate's resume. In addition, it is possible for some professors who are asked to comment about a former student to rely on the evaluation of the student emanating from an internship experience. One reason for this is that a professor often sees students in a much different light than does an agency intern site supervisor. This results from the fact that in a large lecture class, it is quite difficult to get to know students other than perhaps by their class comments or by their grades on exams. This is quite different from an internship situation where the intern supervisor is more likely to come into close contact with the student and observe how the student responds to different demands.

Educational Experience

Obviously, there are a number of ways that a student can help increase the chances of making the internship become a meaningful educational experience. These ways not only apply to the political science internship experience, but to other types of experiential learning activities as well as to a future job. For example, it would be helpful to an intern to demonstrate the possession of certain skills:

* Understanding -- How well can you convert theory into practical skill?

* Communications -- How well do you interact with coworkers and clients?

* Professionalism -- Do you arrive on time? Complete assigned tasks?

* Drive -- Are you asking questions? Asking to help on other projects?

Interviewing

Of course, an intern should realize that first impressions are important. These first impressions often come about in many ways during the initial interview leading up to the possible internship. Hence, students should do what they can to maximize a favorable impression of themselves during this interview. …

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