How to find motivation as an intern

Summer is ending and so is another internship season. I won’t elaborate on all that I have personally and professionally learned (that’s for another time), but I would like to share how I have adapted to the environments of the two internships I have now participated in during my college career.

If you are looking for related posts, check out my advice for finding an internship here

*I am not an expert, or a counselor, and all of these tips and opinions are just that- opinions. I don’t intend to cover all kinds of internships in my advice, but I would still like to provide input in case it is useful to those in similar situations.*


SO, you got an internship. SCORE! Professional world here you come! Whether its being a lab rat for a graduate student or an assistant to a team of developers, a majority of internships are marketed with a few things in mind:

  1. The position provides an opportunity for learning you could not experience in a classroom
  2. You should be doing something to make the lives of those that hired you a little easier
  3. In the professional world, you might gain an opportunity to continue on with the company in which you are working for

Even if your job title might not seem like much, any of these three things can make your time, paid or unpaid, worth it. Often times, however, the structure of an internship is rather vague. In the circumstance that your hours and tasks aren’t laid out for you the second you start, how are you going to get the most out of your time there?

Well, I would like to pass along what has worked for me

  • Set personal internship goals. Determine what it really is that you want out of this internship. In the first week make a list of objectives (and keep them realistic). It helps to have a good grasp of the resources available to you as well before making such a list, so take time to research before you have anything set in stone. Sharing these goals with your boss and co-workers will give them a better idea of why you are there and what assignments would be most beneficial to your future.
  • Ask as many questions as you can. What lead you to this research? What advantages does this company have over other competitors? How did you find yourself in this field and how did you get to this position? Obviously, do not ask all these questions at once.
  • Establish good relationships. Go around and shake some hands. Make yourself known as an intern and feel free to share some of the goals you have in mind for this summer. If you are working at a university, use this avenue to connect on a much deeper level with professors and faculty (Most really like hearing your ambitions and questions, I promise) If you are at a company, talk to some people in jobs you aspire to have, and reach out to HR or whoever could be in charge of job positions and hiring in your future.
  • Keep a weekly schedule. Make a log of what you are doing every day. If you are doing the same thing every day, try to take note of something new you saw or learned or a new person you met. By the end of your internship, you should have a pretty detailed summary of what happened. This summary could prove very helpful for future interviews when you are asked to explain your internship experience.
  • Find yourself tasks. You might not be assigned work for long periods of time, but scrolling on Facebook is not what you came here to do. Find some reading related to your internship field. Look at what others around you are doing and think of more creative ways to approach the task. Think of your free time as an independent study course. If nothing else, make a little project for yourself relating your internship to something specific in your interests. Silly or practical, it will force you to think about the broader implications of this little internship or field you chose to work in.
  • Follow up. Reply quickly, send thank you’s, and always be courteous.
  • Take a training course. Many tech-related companies have online training available for different software, management skills, etc. that are provided free of charge that are a really productive way to fill your time when you are in between tasks. Even if the company or university does not have free training, you can always take to google and do some searching for free resources related to your interests (my go-to is


Hopefully, the process of creating a combination between accomplishing tasks, finding your own motivation, and learning how to be a professional or an academic will allow you to grow immensely during your time as an intern. If you are treated as a coffee mule for the office,  but never express interest in doing more or giving suggestions on potential tasks for yourself, you are equally to blame for the misuse of your time and skills.

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

What are some of the biggest lessons you learned as an intern? Comment below!

Good luck and remember that adults are allowed to have fun too 🙂


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