Importance of an Internship
Hey y’all! With the new year underway, that means college has started back for some possible interns for your department! With that in mind, I wanted to stress the importance of an internship – a quality internship. Like Jared said in the November blog, we all most likely had one at some point in our parks and recreation career. You either knew what you wanted to do, you were testing the waters, or you needed something so you could graduate; whatever that reason may be, we were all there. My internship experience actually landed me the job I have now! I know some of you are thinking, “What does an internship have to do with me, I’m already in the field?” Well YOU can help your interns get the most out of their experience.
The first milestone is letting these students know you exist. We, the Young Professionals Network, want to reach out to area schools and colleges, so let’s make it count. Most guest speakers I had were wedding planners, a GIS analyst, and more wedding planners (my concentration was Commercial Recreation and Event Planning mind you). Not that I didn’t enjoy the information they passed along, but those fields weren’t something I was interested in and didn’t create a broad enough impression of the Recreation and Park Management major. Let these students know a little bit about your sector and what you provide to your town or city. Personally, I had never heard of the town I currently work in, or what working in a “traditional” parks and recreation department meant. As far as parks and recreation went for me, it meant trees, plants, and wedding planning – that’s it. Parks and recreation is so much more, from special events to athletics to outdoor and indoor facilities, parks and recreation is a plethora of programs and events that offer the community a great way to be safe while promoting health as well as protecting the environment.
Now when the interns start, they’re a little nervous – whether they show it or not. Be the person to help them ease into their new role, give a few pointers here and there like: “Tom doesn’t mind questions, so ask away.” Encourage them to be proactive to achieve beyond just their objectives. Say they want to attend a meeting; push them to attend a staff meeting, an advisory board meeting, a town/city department head meeting and every level in between. While at the meeting, also engage and participate in that meeting. This helps them know the full scope of what you do all the way up to how it affects your citizens and other departments. This also expands their knowledge and opens them to other positions and aspects they may take interest in.
Lastly, everyone talks about networking, and while it took me a while to get the hang of it, it is truly important to maintain those relationships. Phones and e-mails work both ways; if a previous intern reaches out to you, make sure to respond even if it’s only, “Hope you’re doing well!” What these interns know is important, but how they use this knowledge makes the biggest impression! So if they have made an impression on you and there is a job opening, email or call them and say, “Hey there’s a position that I think you should apply for.”
Parks and recreation is a big family in my eyes. We all make a difference. You can make an impression on a student by pushing them and treating them like a true professional during their internship and keeping in contact with them after the internship has ended. That’s just my two cents!
Meet the Author
Vicky Harley is a Recreation Administrative Specialist with Kernersville Parks and Recreation, where she did her internship. She has a B.S. in Recreation and Park Management with a minor in Business from UNC: Greensboro. Vicky was born and raised in Columbia, SC (Go Gamecocks!) and currently lives in Greensboro with her fiancé and rescued fur baby Sasha. Favorite Sport- VOLLEYBALL! Played at UNCG and miss it dearly. Favorite Hobby – Cooking and Arts & Craft, Pinterest is my best friend. What’s new – Wedding Planning *woot woot* All those tips from guest speakers are helping out!
Vicky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 336-996-3062x3.
If you are interested in being a guest author for the YPN Blog, please contact Nicole at email@example.com or 919-832-5868.
For more information on the importance of internships as well as useful resources, don't forget to check out NCRPA's Intern Connection at www.ncrpa.net/interns