AHEAD: Association for Higher Education Access & Disability
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How to Thrive in Your Summer Internship

I’m Laocín, the first GetAHEAD Intern at AHEAD. Throughout my internship I have worked on GetAHEAD’s largest event of the year, Building the Future, click here to view. During my internship I also worked on the creation the Ally Ship, our accessibility resource hub, presented information sessions and met staff working on different teams. I have picked up some useful information during my internship, and want to share my tips for getting the most from your internship.

  1. Don't be Afraid to Ask Questions

At the beginning of your internship, you may have many questions about the organisation's practicalities, work culture, and contacts. You are not expected to know everything on your first day. If you find yourself stuck, unsure what to do or unclear on anything, first try to address your query yourself by reading the introductory material or searching for an answer online. If you cannot resolve the issue promptly yourself, approach one of your colleagues with your question.

  1. Keep an Organised Planner

Physical or Digital, linear or visual, ornate or purely functional. No matter how you choose to document and track your work progress, you need tools to keep your work organised.

There is no right way to meet your goals and deadlines, but it is vital to plan your work somewhere. Many free apps are designed to help people optimise their productivity. Explore some of these options here on our AT Hive. There are also a plethora of different calendars, journals, planners and diaries on the market.

  1. Set Goals and Celebrate When You Achieve them

Having clear objectives on what you want to achieve during your internship will encourage you to be productive. By monitoring the fulfilment of your goals, you will have a good picture of how you're progressing in your tasks.

  1. Present Fresh Ideas

As a new staff member, you will be introduced to the way things operate in your organisation. Many systems in the organisation are likely to have been in place for some time; because you are new, you may have different ideas on the ways things can be done. If your manager is receptive to suggestions, you could give a valuable insight into their operations, especially onboarding.

  1. Network and find a Mentor

If you have been assigned to a mentor, be sure to tap into their knowledge. If there is no formal mentorship programme in place, consider approaching a more senior staff member and requesting to meet informally on occasion. They can share their insights, advice and support. Make time to connect with your colleagues and expand your network at this early stage in your career.

  1. Have a Work-Life Balance

If this is your first time being an intern, you may feel a lot of pressure to work as hard as possible and impress your colleagues. These are good instincts – in moderation. Try to maintain a balance where you are fully present at your job during working hours, but you are meeting your other needs during your free time.

  1. Think about Disclosure

It can be daunting to think about disclosing your disability at work. There are lots of valid reasons to think about when considering if you will disclose or not. Have a look at our guide to disclosure to help you make an informed decision.

  1. Keep a Work Diary

Having a record of the projects you've worked on, tasks you've complete, and contacts you've made is an invaluable benefit. While most internships are pretty short, you're going to be doing many different tasks and meeting many new people. It's essential to keep track of your own reference. It is also an excellent tool for reflecting on your internship, writing about your internship on your CV and answering interview questions in the future.

  1. Get A Reference

Leaving your internship on a positive note will enable you to keep the lines of communication open. This can then lead to valuable contacts and references in your future career. If you want to include your manager as a reference, ask their permission to do so before leaving. Request a meeting to request constructive feedback to progress your career.


About the Author

Laocín Brennan is GetAHEAD's first summer intern. He was the founder of DCU’s Neurodivergent Society, the first of its kind in Europe. During his time in DCU, he found that his vocation was not in engineering and found himself gravitating towards his volunteer work, which continues to give him purpose, pride and joy.

He is passionate about human rights and believes intersectionality is the only way towards a just, equal and idyllic society. Laocín valued his morals from a young age, but only began to become cognisant of ableism in 2013, upon receiving the first of many neurodivergent diagnosises. Now, Laocín is pursuing a career in disability advocacy with vigour in the hopes of being the change he wants to see in the world.