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Thread: What Should I Be Expecting from a Summer Internship?

  1. #1

    What Should I Be Expecting from a Summer Internship?

    I'm currently out in Western Canada working a summer internship for a Municipal Planning Department. The city is booming, and is mid-sized. I'm going into my fourth year in my Planning education, and have a prior degree (in Economics) and 3 years experience in the business world.

    Two weeks into my internship, and I'm a little frustrated. Perhaps because the internship is usually designed for people 20 years old, and not as mature or experienced as I am, but I am a little frustrated with the calibre of work they have me doing. Sometimes I'm running errands across the city, picking up documents, making deliveries, etc. My biggest task is updating a Community Profile, which is essentially taking the latest Census data and updating old charts and graphs. There has been very little in the way of learning anything about the profession.

    What I'm wondering is, should I have expected something challenging? I certainly am ready for a challenge, and am somewhat dissapointed in the simplicity and small amount of work they have me doing. I have started to become persistent in asking my boss for more work and responsibility, and requesting to attend and sit in on meetings, but have been pushed away (politely, mind you...they cite confidentiality as the reason I can't sit in on meetings).

    I have started to utilize my plentiful spare time by reading old studies, by-laws, OPs, and all the cogent legislation I can. Adding to my frustration is that I moved from Toronto to be out here, and if I knew I was going to be doing some of the work I'd be doing, I could have stayed home, and avoided all the trouble of uprooting my life temporarily if I knew I wouldn't be getting what I wanted out of it.

    Is this par for the course for internships? Aren't they usually more challenging than this has been? Or am I being petulant?

    Thanks in advance for your advice

  2. #2
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    Your life appears to be the life of an intern for sure - but you are wise to do some reading on your own -

    also when one of the planners doesn't look busy on a deadline, ask them questions about what's happening or if they do look frantic and busy on a deadline, ask if you can help them get the project out -

    you are also, through osmosis, gaining office experience which is really what is seen as valuable from having an internship on your resume

    another thought is to ask if there's a mini research project that they would love to do themselves if they had the staff time to do it

    ask for more work for sure - but make sure your request is for your work is in order to help them - always go for the win/win

  3. #3
    Cyburbian yesteryear's avatar
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    I agree with the last post, in the sense that you ARE gaining valuable office experience, i.e., just being in the planning office, seeing what goes on there day-to-day. The thing with planning internships that always seemed strange to me (I did my obligatory internship in a different, but related, field) was that each city undoubtedly would have its own codes & regulations... so aside from the 'biggies' (here in CA that would be CEQA and general EIR knowlege), what could I possibly learn that wouldn't just become obsolete at my next job? The substantive stuff that you're most likely wanting to get into... well, they're not going to let you in on it because that's an investment of time and at this point your position there is temporary. So yeah, most of what you'll get from this is your 'sea legs', so to speak. How to deal with other planners, the typical office routine... perhaps a bit of dealing with the public??

    By the time I returned to and finished school I was about 6 years older than the average intern and also found many of the intern announcements to be a bit ridiculous and, as you mention, geared toward 20 year olds. If you've been in the real world for a number of years it can be demeaning to find yourself delivering things... or other duties of that nature. But it will look excellent on your resume. All your future employer will see is PLANNING INTERN - not "DOCUMENT DELIVERY SPECIALIST". And I don't know about Canada, but down here you simply cannot get a planning job... not even an interview... without experience. So now you have it!

    PS... are you at least well compensated?

  4. #4

    Thanks

    Quote Originally posted by yesteryear
    I agree with the last post, in the sense that you ARE gaining valuable office experience, i.e., just being in the planning office, seeing what goes on there day-to-day. The thing with planning internships that always seemed strange to me (I did my obligatory internship in a different, but related, field) was that each city undoubtedly would have its own codes & regulations... so aside from the 'biggies' (here in CA that would be CEQA and general EIR knowlege), what could I possibly learn that wouldn't just become obsolete at my next job? The substantive stuff that you're most likely wanting to get into... well, they're not going to let you in on it because that's an investment of time and at this point your position there is temporary. So yeah, most of what you'll get from this is your 'sea legs', so to speak. How to deal with other planners, the typical office routine... perhaps a bit of dealing with the public??

    By the time I returned to and finished school I was about 6 years older than the average intern and also found many of the intern announcements to be a bit ridiculous and, as you mention, geared toward 20 year olds. If you've been in the real world for a number of years it can be demeaning to find yourself delivering things... or other duties of that nature. But it will look excellent on your resume. All your future employer will see is PLANNING INTERN - not "DOCUMENT DELIVERY SPECIALIST". And I don't know about Canada, but down here you simply cannot get a planning job... not even an interview... without experience. So now you have it!

    PS... are you at least well compensated?
    Thanks for the advice (and to the previous poster too)...this certainly makes me feel better! I do suppose the resume entry is worth all of the jobs they have me doing. I will keep my head down, do what they tell me, and make the most of being in the atmosphere.

    I used to work for a significantly large research firm, and have presented to several CPG brand marketing teams, helped prepare brand and pricing strategy, so going back to square one was a bit of a blow to the ego, but I should have expected it...they don't care that I've done "X"...I'm new to the field of planning, and will do what newcomers and interns do.

    They are paying me fairly well ($18/hour), way more than I would have received if I had taken what was offered in Ontario. And, this is mostly tax free, as I should come in under the basic personal tax-free amount, so $18/hour is all coming in.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    Carlsbad, CA
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    Intern

    It depends where you work in my opinion and through my experiences. My first internship was during the summer at a fairly large city (100,000) and I did a lot of the stuff you are mentioning. Plus my computer didn't even have internet access. Then during my last year of school, I got an internship with a small city (35,000) and I gained a lot of valuable experience because the dept. was small and I got to try out many different things including processing a CUP and take smaller projects to the design review board. Now that I've graduated, my first job kind of feels like my first internship again. I learned much more in my second internship with a small city. So my advice would be to get a position with a smaller sized city. But it's good that you're at least getting some experience and something to put on your resume. I did a volunteer position before any of those just to get my foot in the door.

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