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6 Lessons I’ve Learned as a Nonprofit Intern
Internships are some of the most valuable experiences you can have as a young professional. Not only do they boost your resume but they also provide you with real-world experience, great networking opportunities, access to more resources, and the possibility to be a part of projects that you can add to your portfolio.
As a recent graduate, I can confidently say that my time as an intern has benefited me greatly and I would not be where I am professionally today without it. Throughout my time as an intern, I learned new skills, built projects, and held great responsibilities that have impacted me greatly. I can boil this experience down to 6 main lessons I’ve learned as a nonprofit intern.
1. Always be open to trying new things!
It is important as an intern to keep an open mind to any projects you may come across. Take chances and be open to any new experience your nonprofit may offer you. Your time as an intern provides you with so many opportunities to try new things, so take advantage of it!
Whether you enjoy the project or not, you learn something new from it! And, you have a better understanding of it which may come up in interviews with future employers. Sometimes it can be common for interns to feel as if they are doing busy work. But guess what! Your work at your nonprofit matters! Whether it is a tedious task or project, you’re still helping the organization succeed and making a positive impact along the way. Give yourself some credit! Everything you do will add value to your nonprofit organization!
2. Ask questions!
Never be afraid to ask questions! As a nonprofit intern, your team realizes you’re young and new to the professional world. They will always be more than happy to answer your questions because it shows you care. As an intern, it can be overwhelming at times but make sure you take full advantage of the time you have with your fellow nonprofit professionals! They have excellent experiences and ideas that will help you succeed.
One thing I started doing as an intern was writing down more questions throughout my time working. Your team may not have time to answer questions right then and there – the nonprofit world is very busy! But if you write down your questions when you have them, you can ask them once you have the opportunity to talk with your team. I generally enjoyed asking professional development questions during my weekly meeting with my supervisor as it provided time to have an open discussion where I can learn and grow as a nonprofit professional.
3. Your team wants you to succeed!
As mentioned above, it is so crucial to take advantage of the professionals you work with! They have great experiences in the nonprofit sector and would love to share them with you! If you show you’re interested in something, many nonprofit leaders would love to take the time to explain it further or set you up with available resources.
Additionally, as an intern, embrace being a part of the team! Your nonprofit team wants to see you succeed! Oftentimes if they are aware of outside resources such as webinars or networking opportunities, they are happy to connect them with you. Show your love for your position and appreciation for all their time and you’ll be surprised how much they help you progress as a professional.
4. Making and fixing mistakes
Just like anything else in life, you’re bound to make mistakes. If/when you make a mistake as a nonprofit intern, remember a few things. First, own up to your mistake. Taking responsibility for your actions is essential. It shows ownership, accountability, self-awareness, and professionalism which are all crucial things to have in your life and throughout your career. Second, talk with your team to see how you can resolve the mistake yourself. How you handle making mistakes is huge, it impacts how your team perceives you and your morals which becomes increasingly important as you end your time with them and look towards full-time opportunities. Third, try to establish guides for yourself that help you prevent the same mistake from happening in the future. For example, if you mess up the details of a social post, write out a thorough checklist to use before uploading the post to ensure accuracy and quality.
Remember, we are all human! Your fellow nonprofit professionals make mistakes too. Tomorrow is another day for you to show how passionate you are about this position and how well you can handle yourself professionally.
5. Project Management
Project management is so crucial throughout your career and almost every employer will ask how well you handle it. Internships provide a welcoming environment where you can learn your strengths and weaknesses regarding project management. After knowing more about your preferences, you’ll be able to handle multiple projects simultaneously with ease.
There are plenty of tools available to manage multiple projects. Your nonprofit organization may utilize tools that help you manage your projects and assignments. But, it is important to learn how to take responsibility and learn the best methods of project management for you! One tip is to import important due dates into a calendar and look at what takes the most priority for your upcoming week.
6. Establishing routines
Whether you’re interning remotely or in person, one of the best ways to keep yourself on track and engaged is to establish routines regarding assignments and communication times. This idea goes alongside project management. If you establish a routine of completing tasks that you do weekly or daily, such as interacting on social accounts, it will be easy to remember and hold yourself accountable.
Additionally, establishing routines of meeting with your supervisor or other team members helps you maintain effective communication, engagement, and accountability. Nonprofits are extremely busy, as I’m sure you realize. Because of this, it is important to establish regular times to meet with other people a part of your nonprofit team in advance to ensure you’re on track, discuss new opportunities, receive feedback, and ask those thoughtful questions. Each of these things forms expectations of you and your other team members. Establishing routines and sticking to them shows professionalism and that you care about doing well in your position.
Nonprofit internships are so valuable to gain experience, learning new skills, and networking with fellow nonprofit professionals. Your internship could lead you to places you never imagined! As you get started, keep these 6 lessons in mind! They’ll help you be the most effective and successful nonprofit intern you can be!