You’ve researched engineering firms, spent time on the application process, and now you’ve finally landed an internship. Congrats! You’re on your way to a rewarding career. As the internship start-date approaches, you may nervously think, "What am I walking into?" or maybe you’re just wondering if interning at a firm is right for you.
Engineering internships are a great way to learn about the many different roles that engineers play in creating our “built” environment. Internships that provide hands-on experience also give you valuable insight into how you can turn your engineering degree into a fulfilling career after graduation. Your internship is also a great time to learn more about yourself and what types of projects or tasks you enjoy the most.
Clark Dietz summer internships provide the opportunity to work on actual projects in civil, environmental, transportation, structural, mechanical, and electrical disciplines. During the summer, as projects are built, interns will often be in the field where they will assist with project observation and documentation as construction progresses. Interns may perform data gathering and research applicable codes or standards. Some interns often utilize spreadsheets to organize data and perform calculations and quantity estimates. For students with CAD or computer modeling experience, drafting and design tasks using Civil 3D, MicroStation, or Revit may be assigned.
Now that you know what tasks to expect, how do you get the most out of your summer internship experience? Whether in the field or the office, here are several keys to making sure your experience is fulfilling:
- Always seek to understand the scope and objectives of projects that you are working on, no matter what tasks you are performing. By gaining insight into the larger project, you will understand the importance of the tasks you are performing and how they ultimately support the project’s success.
- Be flexible and approach any task as a learning opportunity. As an intern, you will likely be doing things you have not done in the classroom. You may discover things that you enjoy doing that you had no idea were part of an engineer’s job. Likewise, you may discover that certain tasks are not suited to you. Both are valuable as you move toward pursuing your first full-time position.
- Understand the time budget you have been allotted to complete a given task. As consulting engineers, we are typically working within a time constraint, whether it’s a completion due date or the number of hours that a task has been allocated. Meeting the budget and due date are both crucial to a project’s success.
- Challenge yourself to figure out the best way to perform a new task. Apply the knowledge you have gained in the classroom and the skills you have developed in your coursework to learn new processes and tools. Whether it’s diving into a manual, codebook, or the internet, you have many resources available to you. When you hit a roadblock, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Experienced engineers were once summer interns too, and they want to see you learn and succeed!
- Take advantage of opportunities to network with the people you are working with. Whether it’s going out to lunch or an after-work social activity, you will benefit from getting to know the people you are working with. They can not only share how they navigated their transition from school to a working professional but also provide valuable contacts for future opportunities.
In the end, your summer internship will be what you make of it, regardless of the type of work you perform. The goal is to learn, not only about how to perform engineering tasks and solve problems but also about yourself and what will make a fulfilling career for you in the future. Good luck, and have fun!