Tips to Make Your Internship Field-Tastic!

Listed here are the basic things you need to know before you start your internship or summer field research experience (you probably already know them – But, keep reading to refresh your knowledge!)

  1. Establish and maintain a good relationship with your mentor/supervisor (This is a really important one so there’s a full section on this below – please be sure to read through that as well!).

  2. Know your role and what’s expected of you in the workspace.

  3. Strive to meet those expectations the best you can!

  4. Set your own goals and expected outcomes from your internship (Because your development matters, both in honing the skills for your career and to gain the valuable experience that you want from the program)

  5. Know your limits! While working in the field, you might come across tasks that are out of your capacity – either physically or mentally or even both. And that’s okay. Be sure to communicate with your mentor/supervisor to ensure that you are not pushed too far out of your comfort zone.

  6. Be professional! This is very standard but also very important. The way you act and present yourself in the workspace is what will leave an impression of you once you are done with the program. The key is to know the level of professionalism that people generally exhibit in your workspace. Some places may be more casual and relaxed, and others not so much. So, know what’s expected of you and act accordingly.

  7. Socialize! Get to know the people you work with. You never know who knows who until you talk to them. This is the most efficient way to practice your networking skills and make professional connections. This will not only build your professional network but also make your internship experience better.

  8. Last but not least… Know what you are doing and ask if you don’t! This one’s pretty basic but that just makes it easier to forget at times. If you have questions about things you haven’t been able to figure out by yourself, ask someone. First, ask other members of your team who might know something about the issue and resolve it. If all else fails and you have no other option, ask your mentor/supervisor and they will definitely help you out! It’s important to ask because even minor mistakes can have bigger consequences that might affect your professional image at the workspace. Here’s one example: You are working on a data set that was collected from 10 hours of fieldwork, but you didn’t know about a specific function in the program so you attempt to figure it out. But, in the process, you end up deleting a whole column of data from the original document. Now, the field team has to collect it all over again. This could have been avoided if you had just asked for help!

The workplace will bring you challenges along the way. Every path has its own set of hurdles. It’s important to remember the needs of yourself, the workspace, and your mentor/supervisor, and adjust!

Moving on… Developing a good relationship with your mentor/supervisor and maintaining it will be key to your professional and personal success during your internship. Your mentor/supervisor will be the person who decides your place in the institution and the person you will reference on your resume for future jobs/positions in your career. Below are some important tips to note to help you maintain a good relationship with your mentor/supervisor:

  1. Get to know your mentor/supervisor – Use the first week of your internship (this is likely the time you and your mentor/supervisor will have sit-downs discussing the details of your position), to understand their preferences in communication, work ethics, and professionalism and adjust your actions accordingly.

  2. Be punctual! – Be it when you arrive at work every morning, when you have meetings, or when you turn in tasks, don’t be late! If there’s a time when you know you are going to be late, or are having an emergency, let them know so they know not to expect you or make adjustments to supplement your work. Make sure you do this ASAP as they might need to make some changes to make up for your absence.

  3. Communicating with your mentor/supervisor – When you are given tasks, make sure you ask them about when they want it done: get a soft and a hard deadline for every task so you know how to prioritize tasks and manage your schedule. Your mentor/supervisor will be very busy with their own work, and you might not get to meet with them regularly, so be sure to clarify any questions you have in the time they designate to brief you on your tasks/assignments. In the field/lab – make sure to let your supervisor know if you are not capable/comfortable doing a particular task rather than trying to do it and making errors that would waste time and resources.

  4. Asking questions – Like mentioned above, your mentor/supervisor will be a busy person. Don’t ask repetitive questions or about something you didn’t pay attention to while you were being briefed. If you do have questions, ask a co-worker/team member who was in the briefing with you before you contact your mentor/supervisor. That said, in general, try to take notes during your briefing so you remember the details and avoid having to contact someone.

Use the following link to read an article on more tips to get the most of your internship:-


Aicher, T. P., Barabási, D. L., Harris, B. D., Nadig, A., & Williams, K. L. (2017). Ten simple rules for getting the most out of a summer laboratory internship. PLOS Computational Biology,13(8). doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1005606.

10 Ways to Stand Out at Your Internship. (n.d.). Retrieved June 17, 2019, from

PainDec, E., LanginMay, K., ChambersMay, A. H., PainApr, E., & HariharanMay, J. (2017, December 11). Making Your Summer Research Internship a Good One. Retrieved June 17, 2019, from\.

Top 10 Skills Employers Want in an Intern. (2018, June 29). Retrieved June 17, 2019, from

Resources compiled by Ajisha Alwin, ESA Education Intern, 2019.