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.

About College Internship Program

The College Internship Program is a comprehensive transition program for young adults on the Autism Spectrum and with Learning Differences. Our Mission is to inspire independence and expand the foundation on which young adults with Autism, ADHD, and other Learning Differences can build happy and productive lives.