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Making the Most of Your Internship: 5 Tips to Tackle Challenges with Task Initiation


BY Task Initiation
Students who struggle with task initiation often have difficulty getting started on a task and continue to have difficulty maintaining the focus and attention needed to complete a task. Unfortunately, students who struggle with task initiation may be viewed as unmotivated by employers and internship supervisors. In reality, someone can be very motivated and skilled, but may need a little extra task initiation support. See below for five tips to tackle challenges with task initiation.

Create a Workflow Questionnaire: With the help of your supervisor, job coach or career coordinator, create a workflow questionnaire that can walk you through your internship tasks. Ask yourself where, when, and how you can complete each task.

  • Example Excerpt from a workflow questionnaire
    • Look around the rooms and the gym for messes. Do I see anything that needs to be cleaned?
      • Assess the mess – what tools do I need to clean?
      • Clean it! How do I know that it is clean?
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Take it one-step further: Compile a list of your tasks and brainstorm how to take them one step further

  • Example of a CIP-Berkeley Intern taking his tasks one step further:
    • Assigned Task: Water plants in the lobby
    • Taking it one-step further: Research care requirements of the plants to prune as necessary and move to areas of the office near the appropriate level of light (with your supervisor’s permission!)
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Model after more experienced employees: Observe the great things other employees are doing, model yourself accordingly and offer to help! You can do this in the moment at your internship, or, before you show-up to work, create a list of what you have observed other employees doing and write down what you can do to help your co-worker with his or her task.

  • Example: A student working at a kid’s gym noticed that other employees consistently greeted patrons as they checked-in, so he decided to add “greeting newcomers” to his task list in order to practice good customer-service skills
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Showcase your skills: Consider how to integrate skills learned in other domains (i.e. college courses or CIP modules) into your internship. Get Creative!

  • Example: A student intern utilized a lesson plan from his childhood development college course to create a learning activity tailored to the kids at Kid’s Gym Berkeley, an all-inclusive gym for children on the autism spectrum.
  • Example: A student exploring a career in dog training, interning at Berkeley Animal Care Services, is planning a volunteer activity (utilizing skills learned from planning CIP weekend activities) to elicit the help of other CIP students to craft toys for the shelter dogs out of old T-shirts
  • Example: A student studying carpentry volunteered to create a custom cutting board for his internship site (City Slicker Farms) to use during healthy cooking demonstrations
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“What else can I do to help?” Identify your on-the-job contact to check-in with if you have questions about what to do next. Carefully consider your approach when asking what to do next. An intern who asks, “What else can I do to help?” seems much more willing to work and sounds much more professional than an intern who asks, “Is there anything else I have to do before I go?”


About the Author

Kelly Jamison is the Career Coordinator at CIP Berkeley. Through her experience and formal education as a counselor, she has developed a lasting interest in the role vocational fulfillment has in overall wellness and is excited to support CIP students as they enter into the world of work.