Why Career Journaling?
Understanding what you enjoy about work – and knowing which specific aspects of work that drain or frustrate you – can be very helpful in guiding you to make career decisions, support you in interviews and in performance reviews, and generally give you confidence in the workplace. Your internship is a great place to begin career journaling. Reflecting on the ups and downs of your internship will make it easier to identify your strengths, areas you might want to improve in, and what kinds of work (and work environments) encourage you to flourish!
Questions to Get Started
Organization and Culture
- What implicit (unspoken, unwritten) rules did you notice during your internship? (These could be for communication, procedures, protocol, or interaction in the workplace.)
- How are tasks and work spread out among staff? Do you feel that it was a fair distribution? If not, what specifically did you find inequitable?
- What size was the company you worked for? How did that impact your internship? Did you like or dislike being at a company of this size?
- How do different people at your site or involved with your site (i.e., clients/customers, etc.) dress? How did that fit with your ideal “workplace attire”?
- How would you describe the culture within your organization (ways in which co-workers interact or don’t interact) and how does this fit with your “ideal” employer?
- Depending on the sector (for-profit, non-profit, or governmental) your internship is in, how does the structure impact the ability of the organization to accomplish its goals? (Consider layers of management, board of directors, volunteers, etc.) Explain.
- What happens in your workplace when someone makes a mistake? What about when they do a really fantastic job? How did you feel about this?
- If you were running this organization, what would you change and why?
Tasks & Work
- What types of tasks did you do that you enjoy or excel at completing? What did you enjoy most about them? Were you surprised?
- What was the management style like? How structured/guided is your time? How effective/ineffective does that make you?
- What tasks in your internship did you dislike? Could you imagine finding a job in this field that did not include these tasks?
- What about your internship is the most surprising to you (i.e., what did you least expect going into the experience) and what lesson(s) can you draw from this?
- Was the content of your work related to your studies? How did you feel about this?
- If you wanted to follow in the career path of someone at your internship site, what would you need to do to make this happen? (Tip – ask the person for advice and use this in your response.)
- If you’re at a non-profit, what role does funding play in the organization? What different sources of funding does the organization utilize to maintain operations? In your opinion, are there ample resources to fund future projects and is there a plan to secure these funds?
- In what ways have you experienced or witnessed either informal or formal mentoring taking place within the organization?
- How have you or others in this organization effectively utilized relationship building/networking? In what ways could or did you build a strong network with those you work with for future benefit?
- Did your workplace reflect your personal values? Was your employer committed to contributing to society (i.e., environment, community, education, youth, etc.)? Explain.
- Compare and contrast the mission statement of the organization – if you were aware of one – with what you observe in the day-to-day operations. Do they actually accomplish their mission?
- Does the organization seem to be an active member of the community (however this is defined)? If so, how? If not, should it be and how could this be accomplished?
- Was your workplace diverse? How have you observed/experienced individuals from different demographic groups (gender, age, educational background, etc.) interacting with each other? How did you feel about what you observed?
- How does the location of your internship site (e.g., neighborhood, surrounding businesses, access to food, etc.) fit your needs?
- How are employees paid in this field? Do you feel that it is adequate when you see the tasks and workload that they face?
- How were the working hours – did they fit well with you and your internal clock? How flexible was your employer? Did you feel that this created a positive or negative work environment for you?
A note – some of these questions are loosely based on the Hanover College website which is in turn based on “Weekly Internship Journal Blog Prompts” by the Chicago Programs.